My kitschy religion

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I promise I’m not irreverent. But you might not believe me if you saw my collection of religious artifacts. I have a Mexican Sacred Heart of Jesus candle bought at the grocery store. A plate with a drawing of Notre-Dame Du Cap — with a halo glowing around her great big cap, I mean crown. Antique postcards depicting Jesus and the disciples. Bracelets dripping with charms of the saints taken from old rosaries. A tin of Last Supper Dinner Mints. And, of course, a Dashboard Jesus.

I’m not making fun of these things. As much as anyone, I believe Jesus is Lord and is due every bit of respect and exaltation we can possibly show Him — and more. I take my faith seriously. But I see the looks — confusion, concern, uncertainty — when people see my collection. At best, they think I’m weird. At worst, they think I’m blaspheming when I wear the rosary charms.

I don’t believe there’s any particular magic in any of these items. I don’t think they’re lucky charms, nor do I mean for anyone to be offended by my quirky taste. But would you like to know why I do this? Why I collect these things that are kind of funny, kind of odd? It’s true, some of them were chosen simply for their kitsch factor, like the Notre-Dame du Cap (which actually means Our Lady of the Cape, but it somehow amuses me to think of her as the Madonna of the Hat). And the Dashboard Jesus — well, it’s just a strange gift someone gave me, knowing I’d find it funny, but it’s also a reminder that He is with us wherever we go. (Just so you know, though, he resides on a shelf in my office, not in my car.)

The reason I keep most of these items is because they once meant something to someone. The pressed glass, antique plate of DaVinci’s Last Supper — how many generations of families were served banana bread on this? How many meals, gatherings, occasions did it take part in? How many hands touched it? And how about the Saint Christopher medal that is worn smooth, probably from aging fingers who rubbed it for comfort? It once hung around someone’s neck and made him feel safe. It wasn’t the deliverer of safety, but it may have been the conduit for that person’s prayers.

I find comfort in these objects of ritual and tradition. They remind me I’m not alone. That generations and generations before me worshipped the same God and sought solace in Him. That He was the source of strength, the bringer of hope. That He transcends years and decades and centuries. That faith can endure. That even when I am weak, even when I fail, I’m part of something so much bigger than I am. That He is mighty and glorious and transcends all cultural and denominational boundaries.

That He is my God, and I am His. That I don’t need plates and charms and postcards to see Him in my daily life, but maybe someone else once did. Seeing Him, beholding Him, experiencing Him — these are things worth commemorating. Things I hope I never forget. Things I remember every time I look at these items perched on my shelves. (Or my dashboard.)

What items bring you comfort, and why? Comment here or send me a link to a picture and I’ll post to my board on Pinterest.

3 Responses to “My kitschy religion”

  1. J.R. Roper says:

    I have a friend named kelly who brings me comfort 😉

  2. What a great post, Kelly! It really isn’t the stuff in any of our houses that has value in and of themselves – it’s the memories that are attached to them. They remind us of where we were, who we were with. My family had a special set of dishes that we just used on Christmas. And somehow, just seeing the special dishes was one more reminder of all the holidays we had shared as a family.

  3. Joe, you always make me smile. Matt, thanks for the comment. It’s amazing how stuff in and of itself means nothing, but stuff as a reminder of another time or a specific person or place can bring all the memories back!

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