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Old 02-10-2019, 02:38 PM
Nayna Nayna is offline
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Need help identifying something found with my Catholic MIL's things!

I'm cleaning up some old boxes from my late mother-in-law's house. She was a devout Catholic and I am not, and I'm having trouble figuring out what this is:

https://imgur.com/a/HsUiAw1

I've cleaned it up and it seems to be silver, but may not be real silver. Googling points a bit to it being a pyx, which I'd never heard of, but that's possible - my MIL cared for her mother at home for years and might have been transporting consecrated hosts to her.

But I have no idea what that is inside. Ashes? Decayed something? Incense? It smells nice, but not strongly fragrant.

The box is hinged, the bottom is rounded, and there's no latch or finding that would make it useful as a pendant.

Any ideas?
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Old 02-10-2019, 02:49 PM
installLSC installLSC is offline
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My guess it's an anointing oil container.
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Old 02-10-2019, 02:50 PM
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I've never seen anything like that.

The stuff inside looks very unlike cremation ashes. Catholics now allow cremation, but forbade it as recently as 1963.

It looks like wax. We had a box that was kept in our attic, which got pretty hot in the summer. When I opened it, I discovered that it contained a bullet-like container, a crucifix, and some plastic-like substance that "glued" the rest together. It turned out to be an "Extreme Unction Kit" -- a Crucifix, a container of holy oil or water, and a candle, which had melted and flowed to become the "plastic" holding it all together.

My guess is that this was maybe a candle, but it got melted in hot weather and flowed together to fill the container completely.
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Old 02-10-2019, 02:56 PM
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If you suspect it to be silver check for a hallmark. As for the item itself, could it be a snuffbox?
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Old 02-10-2019, 03:09 PM
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Did a little more digging, and it's almost certainly the anointing oil container in a sick call set (which is basically the same as an "extreme unction kit"). Here's a typical set (the container on the left is the oil container, the one on the right is the pyx for storage of Eucharists). These days only priests commonly use these sets, but they were common in the past for invalid Catholics. How you can tell a priest set from a laity set, or if there was any difference, I don't know.

Last edited by installLSC; 02-10-2019 at 03:10 PM.
  #6  
Old 02-10-2019, 03:19 PM
Nayna Nayna is offline
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Thanks! That "Extreme Unction Kit" sounds cool.

My husband is guessing that it's Ash Wednesday ashes inside (it does seem like ashes), but I'm not sure why my MIL would have them. Maybe a priest left the container at the house during a visit.
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Old 02-10-2019, 03:26 PM
Defensive Indifference Defensive Indifference is offline
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Was she a lay minister? I grew up Catholic, and IIRC, lay ministers could apply ashes to the foreheads of Catholics, and perform other rituals. Maybe she had the ashes from a time she was taking communion and ashes to someone who was unable to attend Ash Wednesday mass.

Last edited by Defensive Indifference; 02-10-2019 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 02-10-2019, 03:36 PM
Banksiaman Banksiaman is offline
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I expect to see Liam Neeson starring as a vengeful priest[reprising his Simpsons appearance] in 'Extreme Unction' somewhere on cable fairly soon.
  #9  
Old 02-10-2019, 04:32 PM
Nayna Nayna is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quartz View Post
If you suspect it to be silver check for a hallmark.
Definitely no mark on the outside, but I haven't cleaned out the inside yet.
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:46 PM
Nayna Nayna is offline
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Ohh, there's an 800 mark inside. Sterling is 92.5%, I think, and this is 80%? I've never seen an 800 before.

https://imgur.com/a/iGhmnF4
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Old 02-10-2019, 04:59 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Need help identifying something found with my Catholic MIL's things!

I would have thought it was a pyx, used to carry the Host to shut-ins, because the image on the lid is from the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper, when St John laid his head on Jesus's chest: John 13:23-25 (plus the bread and the cup)

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage...26&version=KJV

Last edited by Northern Piper; 02-10-2019 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 02-10-2019, 05:06 PM
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Yep, holy oil. My parents had one. Way back in the old days Catholic school kids were taught how to do an emergency baptism and how to give last rights - at least we were taught, might not have been universal
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Old 02-10-2019, 05:33 PM
Nayna Nayna is offline
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[QUOTE=Northern Piper;21481196]I would have thought it was a pyx/QUOTE]

It does seem the right size for that, and she did care for her mom, and I'm just remembering, also her husband, at home for years before each of them died.

I love how you matched the image on the front to its use. Thank you so much!
  #14  
Old 02-10-2019, 05:39 PM
Nayna Nayna is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
I would have thought it was a pyx, used to carry the Host to shut-ins, because the image on the lid is from the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper, when St John laid his head on Jesus's chest: John 13:23-25 (plus the bread and the cup)

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage...26&version=KJV

It does seem the right size for that, and she did care for her mom, and I'm just remembering, also her husband, at home for years before each of them died.

I love how you matched the image on the front to its use. Thank you so much!
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Old 02-10-2019, 06:23 PM
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Ohh, there's an 800 mark inside. Sterling is 92.5%, I think, and this is 80%? I've never seen an 800 before.
800 silver is indeed 80% percent silver; it is sometimes called "continental silver," because it used to be a pretty common formulation for silver items made in Germany, Austria, and other areas in central Europe.
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Old 02-10-2019, 06:48 PM
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Probably some Ash Wednesday ashes. Anyone who is trained to bring the Host to the homebound could also be one of the lay administrators of ashes on Ash Wednesday, so she probably brought some home for her parents. A pyx would be the right size for it. The ashes are made from the burned palm fronds from the previous year's Palm Sunday, moistened with holy water.

By the way pyxes are in common use by laypeople who bring the Eucharist to the homebound, in fact I think I might still have mine somewhere. I got it when I used to go the nursing home after Mass. It isn't silver.
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Old 02-10-2019, 10:10 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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You're welcome, Nayna.

One of the clues that it's meant to show St John (in addition to his position close to Jesus) is that he doesn't have a beard.

St John is traditionally considered to be the youngest of the disciples, so he's usually shown as a beardless youth.
  #18  
Old 02-10-2019, 10:47 PM
Nayna Nayna is offline
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This is all so cool! I love how the drudgery of cleaning my basement on a snowy Sunday turned into this amazing discussion. Thanks, all!
  #19  
Old 02-11-2019, 08:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nayna View Post
Thanks! That "Extreme Unction Kit" sounds cool.
You know what's really cool? The sick call crucifix. It hung on your wall like any normal crucifix, but secretly held candles, oil and/or holy water. Just slide off the cover and it instantly transformed into a sickbed shrine.

Last edited by muldoonthief; 02-11-2019 at 08:57 AM.
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Old 02-11-2019, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by muldoonthief View Post
You know what's really cool? The sick call crucifix. It hung on your wall like any normal crucifix, but secretly held candles, oil and/or holy water. Just slide off the cover and it instantly transformed into a sickbed shrine.
That's like having a shotgun over the mantle if vampires show up... a crucifix with holy water inside!
  #21  
Old 02-15-2019, 10:20 PM
Ulfreida Ulfreida is offline
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fun fountain pen trivia: many pen manufacturers used to make a priest pen which looked just like one of their normal pens when closed but was really a holy water vial. They usually had a discreet cross on them somewhere. They're collectors' items now.
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Old 02-15-2019, 11:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nayna View Post
My husband is guessing that it's Ash Wednesday ashes inside (it does seem like ashes), but I'm not sure why my MIL would have them. Maybe a priest left the container at the house during a visit.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulfreida View Post
Probably some Ash Wednesday ashes. Anyone who is trained to bring the Host to the homebound could also be one of the lay administrators of ashes on Ash Wednesday, so she probably brought some home for her parents. A pyx would be the right size for it. The ashes are made from the burned palm fronds from the previous year's Palm Sunday, moistened with holy water.
I think it's very unlikely it's Ash Wednesday ashes. Unlike the Eucharist or Extreme Unction, administration of the ashes isn't a sacrifice and isn't really important enough to warrant a special visit or a carrier. In any case, it happens only once a year. While I suppose it might happen occasionally, I've never heard of a priest (or lay administrator) bringing ashes on a home visit.

In any case, the contents don't really look like Ash Wednesday ashes, which are normally a very pale gray and very fine. That would also be an enormous amount of ashes, enough for an entire congregation. All that's normally administered is a tiny smudge.
  #23  
Old 02-17-2019, 01:04 PM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is online now
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I think it's very unlikely it's Ash Wednesday ashes. Unlike the Eucharist or Extreme Unction, administration of the ashes isn't a sacrifice <SNIP>
...or a sacrament.
  #24  
Old 02-17-2019, 02:21 PM
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...or a sacrament.
That's what I meant, of course.
  #25  
Old 02-18-2019, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muldoonthief View Post
You know what's really cool? The sick call crucifix. It hung on your wall like any normal crucifix, but secretly held candles, oil and/or holy water. Just slide off the cover and it instantly transformed into a sickbed shrine.
Was Batman Catholic? That sounds like something he'd have over his bed.
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