Photo: Catholic News Agency

Update Feb 18: Here are some video and interviews from the relic showing.

Boy, the St. Mary Magdalen Parish of Berkeley’s online calendar notes a pancake breakfast on Feb 13, but somehow omits the fact that it will be hosting a 2,000-year old relic of its namesake today.

Well that’s understandable. Father David Farrugia, the pastor, tells me that the phone has been ringing off the hook, with interested parties from all over the Bay Area wanting information on the viewing. The relic is purportedly a piece of the tibia (shinbone) of the biblical figure Mary Magdalene. It first went on tour in the U.S. in 2009. Earlier this week, it was shown at parishes in Oakland and Antioch. After the Berkeley viewing, it will travel to the South Bay, the Oakland Tribune reports, before moving on to Southern California.

Father Farrugia gave the following schedule for today:

1 p.m. The relic arrives followed by a presentation

1:30 p.m. Special service for parish school children

When that ends, the relic will be on display until 7:30 p.m., when a special mass will be given. It will leave at 9 p.m., in the charge of the Rev. François LeHégaret, a French Dominican priest who has been traveling with it.

KQED’s Kelly Wilkinson will be on the scene, so maybe we’ll get a video or some pics later today.

The Catholic News Agency reported this in 2009 about the relic’s history:

(The relic) is touring with the permission of Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon, the relic’s home…

A letter of authentication from Bishop Rey reports that the relics were hidden at the time of the Saracen invasions and rediscovered in 1279, from which date they have been venerated without interruption.

Father Farrugia of Berkeley says his parish was chosen for the showing simply because of its name, which does not necessarily imply a special affinity with Mary Magadelene. But he is impressed, nonetheless.

“It’s a memory, a memento,” he said. “It’s as close as you can get to the person who lived 2,000 years ago.”

St. Mary Magdalen Parish is at 2005 Berryman St in Berkeley.

Here’s a video report on a 2009 stop by the relic in Houma, Louisiana, with some shots of the reliquary in which the tibia is held.

And here’s something pretty cool: A timeline of Mary Magdalene relics that Google creates from a simple search.


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor for KQED's daily health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED News Fix.

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