A vandal who was intent on destroying the altar at an Arkansas monastery stopped short of moving on to the church’s tabernacle when the sight of a statue of the Virgin Mary apparently convicted him to stop.
Last month, Jerrid Farnam, 32, of Sallisaw, Okla., entered Subiaco Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Subiaco, Ark., and used a sledgehammer to smash the altar. He was preparing to break open the tabernacle — the structure that houses the consecrated Eucharist — when, according to police reports, he had to stop. Farnam told police that after looking at the statue of the Virgin Mary, he was unable to break open the tabernacle. He was arrested on charges of theft and property damage committed at the monastery and is currently awaiting trial.
National Catholic Register reports:
Sheriff Jason Massey of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office told CNA that when they brought the suspect in he confessed to the crime. But, Farnam told the police, after he looked up and saw a statue of Mary, he couldn’t continue to break open the tabernacle as he had planned to do.
“He decided he just couldn’t do it,” Massey said. “I think he felt it was wrong at that point.”
Subiaco Abbey had reported that on Jan. 5, a man using “a regular hammer and sledgehammer/axe” began destroying the abbey’s marble altar by smashing it in different places. Founded in 1878, Subiaco is home to a community of 39 Benedictine monks.
The suspect left a gaping hole in the top of the altar and broke open stones that contain relics, the abbey said. Two reliquaries — small, brass-colored boxes that each contained three relics of saints from more than 1,500 years ago — were stolen, according to the Logan County Sheriff’s Office.
Father Elijah Owens, the abbot of the monastery, told CNA in January that the relics contained in one of the reliquaries were those of St. Boniface, St. Tiberius, and St. Benedict of Nursia.
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