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Ask the Patriarch 49
Grandmothers & Necklaces

from B:

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I have a slight dilemma. I recently received, as a gift from my grandmother, a beautiful gold and amethyst cross-shaped necklace. Because of my agnosticism, which, as of yet, no one in my family knows anything about (I was raised in a very conservative protestant household), I cannot bring myself to wear it; I would feel like a hypocrite.

Fortunately, my grandmother lives relatively far from me and my family, and we do not see her very often. However, I am afraid that she may come to visit sometime and ask me why I am not wearing the necklace. Is it possible to wear such an ornament solely for its intrinsic beauty and not for the religious symbolism it implies, or would wearing it constitute hypocrisy? I would appreciate any comments on this issue.

the Patriarch replies:

Dear B.

There was recently a discussion on the UCTAA.com message board started by another member who had visited his grandmother over Easter, and found himself required to go to mass with her. He was uncomfortable about it, but the general consensus was that he had done the right thing.

Most grandmothers seem to operate as if one of their prime functions is to keep the grandchildren happy. And I think that normally we should reciprocate and try to make our grandmothers happy, even if we have to compromise a bit.

Of course, there are limits to how far we should compromise, but I don't think wearing this particular bit of jewelry on the rare occasions you see her is going too far.

As far as the symbolism goes, it really comes down to how significant a jeweled cross really is.

In my opinion, as soon as you start decorating a cross, it loses its potency as a religious symbol, and turns into adornment. Wearing a small, plain and simple silver cross, in my view, is a much more potent expression of faith. It makes a clear statement. But when it is turned into an object of beauty, I think the symbolism is lost, or at least greatly reduced. Everyday we see people wearing religious themed jewelry with no intention of making a religious statement, or in some cases, with the purpose of making an ironic statement.

However, if you see the symbolism as important, then don't wear it except when she is visiting, or when you visit her. And there's no hypocrisy in that. It is just a matter of priorities; and keeping granny happy is a pretty high one.

Best wishes