In the world of holy relics there are several that have made their mark on the world including the acclaimed and much often sought after Holy Grail and splinters from the True Cross at the crucifixion of Jesus. But there are also stranger relics that are said to have a long history and several legends surrounding them. One of these is the severed hand of St. John Kemble.
The hand belonged to a priest named John Kemble in the mid to late sixteenth century. And strangely enough even after the hundreds of years of passing, the severed hand has been preserved and remains as a sacred relic according to the Catholic church. In 1679 Kemble was executed, and would be canonized in 1970 when the final miracle attributed to him came to pass.
Perhaps the most interesting miracle attributed to the man was when in 1995 a priest first became ill and then subsequently succumbed to a comatose state. Hearing tales of the incredible feats of healing that had at one time been attributed to the saint, the priest in charge of the church holding St. John Kemble’s sacred hand was called in and he brought it to the hospital where the ill priest was slowly dying. It was a good year for St. Francis Xavier’s church as they had only recently seen an increase in attendance. As the phone call came in on July 15th, Christopher Jenkins was saddened by the news of his friend’s approaching death. Then he called a close friend of his, father Tumelty, and asked him to help with the opening of the casket containing the hand so they could protect it on their journey to the hospital. Together the two stood over the priest as he slumbered near death and the two of them took the hand in theirs and placed it on their sick friend’s forehead.
As they stood over him and prayed after wiping the hand across his brow, the two couldn’t help but wonder if it would be enough to help him. As they prayed, however, they noticed movement from the prone man. He was moving his lips. Shortly afterward his eyes opened and he regained consciousness. The doctors were astounded. It had been only a matter of hours since the application of the sacred object to his head before he awoke. As they struggled for an explanation, the two priests Father Jenkin and Father Tumelty returned to its protected box and thanked the saint for his assistance.
So are sacred objects capable of healing the sick? Was it just coincidence that as they prayed over him the priest, who had been expected to die was able to awaken? Shortly after the miraculous intervention he was able to not only open his eyes and speak, but also to walk. He went on to live a rich and full life, always remembering the time when he was saved from death’s door by a dead man’s hand. Though he may be sure it was a miracle, to the rest of us it will remain unexplainable.