Holy Medals in These Protestant Hands

I knew an elderly man in Ireland who had more holy medals in his trousers pockets than he had anything else, especially money.

He'd work his way through everything he knew about his faith before he could fish out enough coins to satisfy the paper boy on a Friday afternoon. It was always the same. The kid would stand there and watch as Gerry fished the coins of the realm from the panoply of intercessors he kept on hand.

I have become like that old man in this way. In my purse I have pewter ingots bearing the likenesses of a Buddha, Jesus, a nameless angel. A dog. One is simply a heart. All of them were gifts, tokens of affection from friends who wished me to remember them, to remember God, to love the world.

I have just added the likeness Jesus' Mother Mary to the group. Her likeness came to me from a neighbor whose name I can't remember but whom I see a few nights a week when I am out for a walk. He walks a small circuit and prays. His is a walking meditation. Last weekend, Ed came with me for my walk, and he remarked that our neighbor's Stamford Catholic jacket went back a few years because the school has been called Trinity for a while now.

The men got to talking, and our neighbor asked Ed if he were Catholic.

"I was raised Catholic..." Ed said.

"But not now," our neighbor said with a nod. "Would you take this and just say 'thank you' when you go to bed and when you wake up? You'll be one of 250 guys who do that." He handed Ed a medal bearing the likeness of Mary and because I was standing there, he handed me one too. I'm now one of the guys.

I don't exactly know what Mary means to my neighbor. I know only what she means to me. She is the mother of a young man who went the whole road for his friends out of his passionate belief that the kingdom of God is within each of us. She is the mother of the man who opened his heart to the world around him that we might experience radical grace and transform this world. What was it like to be her? I wonder that when I look at the medal.

Though I grew up in a Protestant tradition that has a long history of eschewing icons and ignoring good folk like Mary, I think these little ingots good things. Valueless as material objects, they are nevertheless effective reminders of the great and simple truth that we all seek to be one with the sacred.

Wonderful things happen if you go the whole road without ever pushing too hard.


  1. Wonderfully said! Those little ingots have no power themselves, in my mind, except to do just as you said: to remind us, to make us think, to make us grateful. Sometimes, to give us strength.

    And, I was wrong. Your piece wasn't wonderfully said; it was wonderfully prayed!

  2. Anonymous9:46 PM

    Interesting read, but as I learn more about the power of `the spirit' I find objects have less and less value.

  3. Sandy!!!! It's so nice for me to have found this blog of yours, it's so interesting. I sure hope and wish that you take courage enough to pay me a visit in my PALAVROSSAVRVS REX!, and plus get some surprise. My blog is also so cool! Off course be free to comment as you wish.

  4. Thanks for stopping by. The little medal is just electroplated plastic that also reminds me of a kind man walking his labyrinth and wishing more than anything to share the spirit he experiences.

  5. I find the verse 'and Mary kept all things and pondered in heart' (or something like that) very facinating.

    Nice post.

  6. Very nice post, Sandy. I consider the Mother of God a friend whom I call upon often for help and direction. She brings me closer to her Son, Jesus. Who else but Mary could bring us into an intimate relationship with our Lord? We can consider how she actually nudged her Son forward to perform his first public miracle because "They have no wine." What did Jesus end up doing? He turned the water into wine. Mother Teresa taught me a lot about the Blessed Mother and I am thankful.

    Here is a link to an article I wrote about Mary at Mother's Day: http://www.cuf.org/Laywitness/LWonline/MJ07CooperOBoyle.asp

    and another Mary article:

    God bless,

  7. Thanks, Donna. I appreciate your insight and your teaching me more about this medal. I think this gentleman on the road opened another way to think and to pray. So did you.

  8. Anonymous7:36 PM

    I know someone who had a whole lot of medals. And in a small Daytimer-sized wallet, he had prayers to go with them. He prayed every night after dinner and after changing out of his work clothes.

    When he traveled, he kept a medal or two and a rosary in his lap for a safe journey.

    While one commentor mentioned that the more she learns about the spirit, the less value objects have.

    To this man, the value that the objects had were that they opened up his mind for prayer. They triggered all he wanted to say as he sat in the driver's seat or his favorite chair.

    Although his face often looked balnk, there was more conversation going on than we could ever know.

    Could he have prayed without the medals. Probably, but probably not to the same level.

  9. Somebody I read... probably Robert Fulgum, because he writes like that a lot, called these talismans. He pointed out that we all have them, even if we don't know it. Small objects that point out to us that we are more than our daily hustle and bustle.


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