All Powerful Gauntlet or Relic Knock-off?
Breaking opening weekend box office records last weekend was the newest Avenger movie, Avengers: Endgame, part two of a saga that began in April of 2018 with the release of Avengers: Infinity War. Key to both of these films is an artifact called the Infinity Gauntlet. While I have not yet seen Endgame, I did see Infinity War, and cannot recall where in the movie Thanos, the villain steals, the Incorrupt hand of St. Teresa of Avila and begins to fit it out with new stones.
Oh, you missed that too. Maybe they are saving it for a prequel.
The Infinity Gauntlet and The Incorrupt Hand of St. Teresa
The Infinity Gauntlet and the Hand of Saint Teresa is one of the wildest look-a-like pairings I have ever seen. Take a look at this side by side. On the left is a reproduction of the Infinity gauntlet that you can buy online. On the right, is an image of the Incorrupt gauntlet (hand) of St. Teresa of Avila. Looks very similar to me.
Coincidence? I don’t know, but the similarity is interesting.
Wait…A Saint’s Hand?
Catholic tradition has long venerated the remains of saints. Don’t confuse veneration, which is honoring a saint; with worship, which is given to God alone. After the death of a particularly saintly person, the physical remains and personal effects are preserved (relics). The vessel which holds such relics is called a reliquary. The ornate metal encasement which contains the hand (relic) of St. Teresa of Avila is a reliquary.
When this particular reliquary is rotated, palm side towards the viewer, it is possible to see her actual hand through some of the transparent areas. In the palm you see the mark of the wounds of Christ, referred to as stigmata.
When St. Teresa of Avila died the sisters in her convent buried her, hoping to preserve her within their order. Nine months later, when her coffin was opened, her body was found to be incorruptible (intact and undecayed). Before it was re-interred, her hand was removed. That is the source of the relic referred to in this story.
Relatively recently, 1939-1976, following the end of the Spanish Civil War, this relic of St Teresa was removed from the convent by General Franco, a devout Catholic. Rumor is he kept it in his sleeping quarters while he was ruler of Spain. It is said, that at the time of his death, he had it beside him on his pillow. After his death in 1976, the Discalced Carmelites of Ronda requested and were granted the return of the relic.
Okay…but who was St. Teresa of Avila?
The full story of St. Teresa of Avila is tale of an educated and devoted woman. A mystic, writer, and visionary, Teresa was also a reformer of the Carmelite Order. She sought to foster greater devotion to selfless love, poverty, devotion to God and work in the religious life. She founded sixteen convents and wrote books to teach the faithful. Two of those books “The Interior Castle,” and “The Way of Perfection” are still widely read today. She is also one of three women Doctors of the Catholic Church. Additional details on her life are found in the Dominican Journal.
A Few Profound Differences Between the Gauntlet and the Hand
The timeline of the two items is a little different. The first movie rendition of the Infinity Gauntlet is from 2018 while the Hand of St. Teresa of Avila goes back well over 300 years, since she died in 1622 (396 years ago). We can be certain that the makers of the reliquary did not steal the design from the movie.
There is a huge difference in purpose between the hand relic and the gauntlet. In the movie, the gauntlet, is profoundly destructive. Once all the stones were acquired, the villain Thanos could use it to eliminate half of the population of the universe. The Relic of the Hand of St. Teresa of Avila, is profoundly instructive. Like other Catholic relics it is a physical reminder of the holiness of St Teresa, meant to draw individuals to pursuit of a deeper relationship with God.
At the present time it seems like the Infinity Gauntlet is the big winner for attention. Less than a week after its release, Avengers: Endgame, featuring Thanos, the Infinity Gauntlet and a host of Marvel heroes broke 144 different box office records. Very Impressive! But let’s see how many views it gets 300+ years from now.
Another plus for the movie gauntlet is that for $26 you can download plans to 3D Print the infinity Gauntlet. But alas, There are currently no 3D plans for the reliquary of St. Teresa of Avila’s hand.
While the box office receipts for the movie are great, they are temporary. Compare this cultural flash to the fact that for hundreds of years, thousands of people annually visit Avila, a medieval city in western Spain where St. Teresa lived. It is home to the Convento de Santa Teresa (Convent of St. Teresa), a convent which contains additional relics of St. Teresa of Avila. It does not however include the Hand of St. Teresa.
That relic is located almost a 7 hour drive away in Rhonda at the Nuestra Señora de la Merced. Again, each year, for hundreds of years, thousands of people stop in to see her relics there.
While you can buy a Infinity Gauntlet to wear, wearing it will not change your life. Well, not past a fleeting moment of coolness that will quickly fade; within 10-20 seconds if you are a normal person. Reflection on the life of a saint however can have lasting effects. Reading their writings, considering their struggles, joys, defeats and triumph can give you inspiration and guidance for your own spiritual path.
Another profound difference is that you will never, ever, ever, see nuns venerate a Thanos gauntlet.
The sisters pictured are from the convent, Nuestra Señora de la Merced in Rhonda, Spain. What you see in the image is referred to as Besame (when you kiss a Holy Relic) A wonderful story about a visit to the site where the relic is located is found here.
Nuns Kissing the Hand of St Teresa: Toma & Coe
Reliquary containing St Teresa’s hand: English Historical Fiction Authors
St Teresa’s Hand in Reliquary: Footloose with Diana
3D Printable Thanos Infinity Gauntlet: Pinshape
Thanos with Infinity Gauntlet: Popsugar Entertainment
Additional Reading on St Teresa of Avila
Saint Teresa and the Dominicans