Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cloudy shroud

Last Saturday, while visiting the Grande Chartreuse with Natacha and her husband, I was momentarily alarmed when I saw Alain disappearing into an unlit alcove at the monastic gateway. I recall tales in which a guy goes out to buy a box of matches, while waving goodbye to his wife and family... and reappears half a century later on the other side of the globe. I imagined my having to soothe his lovely wife with banal words: "Natacha, I'm sure Alain's not lost for Eternity. Besides, he left with your car keys." In fact, Natacha's husband reappeared almost instantly, with no apparent help from the Holy Ghost. Alain had merely discovered a charming little subterranean chapel for visitors. It was foolish of me to have imagined that he might have decided on the spur of the moment to abandon us and become a monk.

Inside the chapel, somebody [no doubt a creative artist from the nearby Carthusian museum] had installed a splendid cloth replica of the famous Shroud of Turin:

Most people agree today that this piece of medieval cloth is a fabulous hoax, but it keeps a lot of serious people busy in arguing for or against its alleged authenticity. [Click here to see a website on this affair.] Personally, I believe it's a forgery manufactured in the secret Roman laboratories of Leonardo de Vinci based upon on-the-spot forensic data concerning the crucifixion of Jesus supplied by a descendant of Mary Magdalene. I see no other explanation capable of accounting for the perfection of this inspiring artifact.

Incidentally, in a neighboring domain, all those Polish pilgrims who died a few days ago in a terrible coach accident near Grenoble were returning from a nearby place called Our Lady of Salette, where the Virgin apparently appeared and spoke to a couple of local children, named Maximin and Mélanie, about a century and a half ago.

We all know that peasant kids don't necessarily have the expert reactions of professional journalists such as my daughter, for example, but I find it a pity that nobody has thought it worthwhile, on one of these frequent apparitions of the Virgin, to pop the question directly to the divine First Lady: "Is the Shroud of Turin genuine?" Theoretically, she should know... but, then again, she might still be in the dark [which is normal, you might say, in the case of a shroud]. A direct question of this kind might be like having asked Hillary Clinton, not so long ago, for her evaluation of the authenticity of tales about Bill's big cigar. The trouble with shrouds is that they're meant to hide things.

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