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Tempestrogen posted a blog entry in Among the Saints and UnicornsHi, all. I'm a long-time lurker here on Free Jinger and an even-longer-time insomniac. So while I stayed up late last night, yet again scrolling through 'Quiver Full of Snark' and stifling my snorts and chuckles to avoid waking my sleeping boyfriend, I realized that I had yet to comment or use any of the new site features (including the option to create this blog). Honestly, I have to admit I've been a bit intimidated by the daunting number of in-jokes, acronyms, fundie-knowledge and general awesomeness I've only observed from a distance (self-admitted creepery, right there) . I know that's what 'SOTDRT' is for, but I guess my super-strength social anxiety can carry over to the Internet, too. Here we go... First, about the blog name: Fort Tryon Park is easily my favorite place on the planet and also where I spend a lot of my free time. It's stunningly beautiful in any season and home to the Cloisters Museum, which houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Medieval Art collection including the famed Unicorn Tapestries and painted reliquary busts of female saints. Access to the park and the Cloisters grounds is also 100% free (which makes it the perfect place for a broke twenty-something like myself to hang out) and just two blocks over from the shoeboxed-sized one bedroom apartment I share with my boyfriend, our cat, and our two ferrets. Plus, with the Met's "pick-your-price" donation policy, you can pay as little as $1 entry fee for the Cloisters. If you're ever in New York, make sure to take the A train uptown all the way to 191st Street to check out this totally underrated cultural gem. Speaking of reliquary busts, the Catholic Church has a long history of peddling the body parts of dead saints. Having been raised in an extremely religious Irish and French Canadian Catholic family, I'm no stranger to the bizarre and frankly kind of icky practice of venerating relics. My mom gave me the middle name "Thérèse" as a tribute to one of her favorite saints, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, aka "the Little Flower of Jesus." The devotion to this particular saint was apparently inspired by her visit to the Carmel De Lisieux, the site of Thérèse's tomb and the Carmelite cloistered convent (say that ten times fast!) in Lisieux, Normandy where she made her claim to fame by basically being a model nun from the age of tender age of fifteen until her untimely death in 1897 from tuberculosis. She was 24 years-old when she died, which also happens to be my current age. #Goals. So, my largely Irish-and-Italian-American hometown had a designated boutique for Catholic knick-knacks right in the middle of a prime commercial real estate zone on Long Island, NY. It closed about six years ago, probably due in large part to the recession, and because all of the enthusiastic Catholic consumers have since retired and moved down to Florida. Pretty much everyone I went to Catholic school with has either lapsed in their faith or is a full-on Atheist. Unlike its neo-Evangelical counterparts, Catholicism isn't exactly hip. Over the past few years, Catholic Church closings have been commonplace in dioceses throughout the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. Although, it is pretty amusing to imagine Catholic goods stores blowing up on Yelp: Hipsters raving about growlers of filtered, ionized holy water and the energizing properties of the signature tea blend made from powdered remains of the Canonized. "The house blend StigMatcha red-green tea is literally the ONLY way I can start my day." and "Saint Boneventure's Bone Broth™ has been nothing short of miraculous in helping to cure my leaky gut syndrome!" Anyway, whenever someone we knew received a sacrament, my mom would run out to the Catholic store to get the appropriate gift for that occasion. At least for a Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, (First) Reconciliation, or Marriage... Anointing of the Sick gifties would be too morbid even for an Irish Catholic, and all of the family friends who took Holy Orders did so after the Catholic store had already closed. (Thank God for Online Shopping, am I right, ma?) So, for my first communion my mom handed me this delicately wrapped box from the local Catholic store. Inside was pair of rosary beads with a portrait of my middle-namesake in the center. When I turned it over, I noticed a small, reddish-brown dot coated with a clear lacquer. I naively asked my mom what the spot was, and she proudly explained to her stunned seven year-old daughter that it was a drop of St Thérèse's actual blood. Apparently, the addition of this hundred-year-old bodily fluid made it extremely special and holy. Looking back, few things illustrate the total incompatibility of my mother's and my world views quite like the fact that she fully expected me to be thrilled, and not, you know, totally horrified. I've since spent a good chunk of time playing the Elder Scrolls series, and can confidently say those rosary beads bordered on some straight-up fantasy RPG necromancy shit. But this is par for the course with the Catholic Church. Europe is littered with cathedrals, monasteries, and other pilgrimage sites where devoted Catholics gather to gaze upon the airtight glass displays showcasing the remains of "incorruptible" saints. While I'm no longer one of the Faithful, I still very much enjoyed visiting several of these sites, especially St. Denis’ Basilica just outside Paris. Between assigned course reading of Peter Brown and finally having the option of NOT attending Mass on Sundays, I have finally begun to appreciate these wonderfully weird relics for what they really are: a source of fascination, intellectual curiosity, and yes, even abject horror.