A Ming-full of Matthias Miracles

Warning:  This is NOT a religious post.

St. Matthias – artist not known

I am, however, keen to introduce a Saint.  Learning about Saints is one of the most compelling ways to bring these souls to some semblance of humanness.  Their stories help whittle away some of the angles that fight the rounded holes of life.

St. Matthias is in my radar today.  He’s the patron saint of alcoholics (reformed and otherwise apparently), carpenters, tailors and smallpox. He was the Apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot after Judas committed suicide.

St. Matthias and another man were the two candidates.  Both men believed in, and practiced, the teachings of Jesus while the hordes chided and denigrated those teachings or ran from them lest they catch some dreadful disease like smallpox.  Or Love.

This decision was made in between Jesus’ Ascension and the descending of the Holy Spirit.  It’s puzzling that mysticism and energy work – done today – can be pooh-poohed when one of the world’s Holy Books is so rich with incredible events.  Didn’t Jesus say that he wasn’t doing anything that others could not do?

So the Disciples prayed for guidance to make the appropriate decision.  As the highly secular Wikipedia reports, the prayer is written in Acts:

“Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:23-26)

Matthias doesn’t receive a lot of press, but there are stories of his miracles, such as having been forced to drink poison by pagans.  He not only survived, but healed other prisoners also forced to drink the foul concoctions.

Since his good works caught enough attention to endow him with sainthood status, numerous churches carry his name.  One example is an Anglican Church in Victoria B.C.  A small parish, St. Matthias, whose Rector is a long time acquaintance, had been suffering financial pains similar to other small churches in the Diocese.

Rev. Bob Arril was leading the weekly Bible study with a few of his faithfuls a couple of years ago.  As reported in The Diocesan Post, Rev. Bob said they were sitting in the cold nave of the church, “And I noticed one of the group who seemed to be quite intense in what I thought was the study going on.  To my surprise she was studying the chair that I was sitting on.”

The parishioner, who wants to remain anonymous, recognized that Rev. Bob’s chair was either a good replica of a 17th century Huanghuali Yokeback armchair or it was a valuable and authentic piece of furniture.

A matching one sat elsewhere in the church.

The church had done an inventory in 1992 and decided to place a value of $2,000. on the pair for insurance purposes.  However, after local experts viewed the chairs and after a visit from Harold Yeo, specialist in Chinese art for Sotheby’s Auction house in New York, the chairs were put in safe keeping while the Parish underwent an extensive search to find the donor.  None could be found.

The parishioners, determined to deal with the short supply of finances, were also determined to maintain their support for the Rainbow Kitchen, the Mustard Seed Food Bank and a number of other outreach programs locally and globally.  Therefore, the Parish decided to put the chairs up for auction.  They estimated receiving a possible $250,000. for the pair.

The chairs were shipped to Sotheby’s in New York.  Within minutes, the chairs were sold for $630,000.  With the purchaser’s premium, the total sale was $758,000 U.S.

The miracles of St. Matthias continued.  The tiny Parish will have $615,000., Canadian, with which to continue all their good works. There’s even consideration of expanding into another project supporting low-income housing.

We can find lots of reasons to denounce historical decisions made in the name of religion.  We can point fingers at the patriarchal demonstrations within the religious hierarchy.  We can question the gold glitter on walls of a building that lures the “ka-ching” of a widow’s mite on the collection plate.

But the generosity and Love demonstrated by a modern day disciple and his flock, after discovering a small fortune has not included a war, a demand for a better quality chalice or new policies to reward the faithful.  It quietly and humbly assures the presence of a saintly fingerprint on each of their hearts.


The St. Matthias Chairs – photo from The Diocesan Post (A section of the Anglican Journal of Canada)

32 thoughts on “A Ming-full of Matthias Miracles

  1. That was a fun post! I love concentric circles that lead to miracles. Thanks. Oh, and over the weekend I was inspired to do an abstract drawing (to become a painting) of Judas’ suicide. All part of the plan.

  2. Wow!! That’s such a nice story Amy. I guess this is proof of hidden treasures many of us may have, and don’t realize it. I remember reading a story awhile back when a man who was doing some work in his family’s home found several thousand dollars in confederate money stacked away in the attic. We all know that confederate money long ceased being usable for cash after the civil war. Apparently, the man’s relatives passed the house down to others in the family over the many years after the war. Long story short, once the value of the money was assessed in today’s value, the man received more than one million dollars for his newly found treasure. I can’t understand why anyone would want to give more than a million dollars in exchange for the confederate money, but that’s what happened. True story.

    • That’s quite a story, too, Carolyn. When I look at these chairs, I wonder about their fragility and how comfortable they would be. It’s amazing that someone holds such value of “things” to pay so much to own them. If I owned them, I’d worry more than appreciate them! I was just telling a friend on a walk today that I once had an “aha” moment in an art gallery. The joy I felt looking at a sculpture in that moment was greater than all the joy I’d feel if I owned it and looked at it daily. I don’t need to own stuff to experience the joy of its existence.

    • Exactly, Charles! Did the donor know? If so, did they envision the church ever realizing? Did they play little scenarios in their mind about the day their value would be realized? Did they donate them so noone else in the family would never find them? Or was it a gift because the donor had no idea of their value and they weren’t that comfy? Actually, I was surprised that someone in the Parish even thought to insure them for $2,000.

    • You and I would not be a good team at a garage sale. I’m hopeless…everything looks like junk to me. The only thing that isn’t ‘junque’ is the object that I desperately need and have been looking for. So if you ever see a good wheel barrow…

  3. Hahaha….I have a wheelbarrow!! It’s yellow with orange wheels and it comes with a blue rake and a red hoe–or is that the other way around? 😉 Either way, you’d need to be a very short person with very small loads to appreciate it.

    What an amazing and divine intervention.
    Bless all the hearts involved in that.

    And I’ve now learned something new today…..again! How cool is that.
    BTW–I don’t find the chairs attractive or comfy looking. But really, for that amount of money would ya WANT anyone sitting on ’em?! :-/

    • I suspect there is a Wee Bug who would be very upset to learn the Yellow wheel barrow ended up in Canada! There you go – the chairs look very fragile and when one knows the cost of them, they are that much more fragile!

      AGAIN…I must catch up on my reading, Mel. Honestly I really do have to ask how I ever worked outside the home!

  4. What a great story. I would also like to hear how the chairs ended up in the church. I don’t think the donor realized their value.

    Do you ever watch “The Antique Roadshow” on PBS? Odd chairs like this that someone found in the church or their attic or their grandfather’s dining room often end up there and it’s astonishing to hear the value of the stuff.

    • Yes, when I watched TV, that was one of my favourites. I’m afraid I often ended up in tears when the find was way beyond imaginings. My brother tells me there’s one about Storage auctions that he watches. I said with humour, “Do you every cry?”

      “Yes!” he said, “Every time I see all the money that storage places are making. I tried to talk my son into setting one up years ago!”

    • Yes, I agree. That’s one of the really great things about churches. When people pooh-pooh their existence, I think of all the help they give – just in my little world. Plus they do symbolize kindness, Love, and caring for others – though their help and service is often very understated.

      It’s a shame they have to lock their doors due to vandalism, but their presence is a reminder of goodness and compassion.

  5. When I cleaned out my mother-in-law’s house (she was a hoarder) after she passed, I reached the point where I didn’t care if I got any money for the things she had, I just wanted them gone. I’m sure I gave away things that had some value, but I don’t think I gave anything away worth a ton of cash (if I did I, hope I never find out about it)

    • My mother’s sister was a hoarder. She died in her apt sitting at the kitchen table. Her house was so chok-a-block full of stuff that she couldn’t have fallen over. Following this aunt’s death, my mom’s brother began to go through the stuff. He discovered he couldn’t just chuck stuff. She’d hidden all her money in these piles of belongings.

      I used to drive Mother over to visit this Aunt (she lived on a bigger island) and we could never figure out why Aunt Jess insisted that Mom and she stay in a motel in her town. Aunty would pay for the room, etc. – we decided it was a way for her to feel she was on a little holiday as well.

      Little did we know there were only corridors through her home.

  6. As compelling and heartwarming as this ‘coincidence’ (and the consequences) you’ve described may be, for some reason my attention was oddly drawn to the chairs, and how the ‘story’ neglects any mention, or interest in the man who made them. As in, “Who cares about him? He’s just some guy who made chairs for people to sit in.” Which reminds me of something I just posted this afternoon (Vater Unser by Arvo Part). It is a beautiful piece of music, but for me just an unusually pleasing background for what really caught my attention…which was the extraordinary architectural design–and craftsmanship–displayed in the opening scene. My thoughts immediately went to the man, centuries ago, who was dipping his quill into a crude jar of ink to begin ‘drafting’ the vision of what I, centuries later, was about to see. That, and the thought of all those craftsmen who looked at his drawings, and then labored for endless hours transforming a pile of raw materials into such an extraordinarily challenging reality.

    But that’s just me. Probably a ‘guy’ thing. But is suspect ‘God’ knows what I mean. 😉

    • William, you amaze me. I’ve not heard this version of the Lord’s Prayer before. It is the prayer that covers all the bases so when all else fails, it is the one velcroed to my brain. When I see that type of construction, I boggle – how was it possibly done when the equipment and machinery were not sophisticated? You probably do have even more appreciation for the craftsmanship and what it demanded.

      When I was in Europe in the mid-60s, a villager in Germany took me into his small church. In one corner, with the light streaming through a stained glass window, was an exquisitely detailed sculpture of a wounded soldier being carried by Christ. The man explained that the sculptor had been interrogated by the Nazi party for possibly harbouring Jews. Since he was an artist, the Nazis broke all his fingers plus other bones in his hands. The sculpture was done by the artist, with deformed hands, AFTER THE WAR!!

      I’ve fallen in love with your closet. I just cried my way through the fiddlers. I married a MacLeod from Cape Breton and I see the marvelous naturalness of those two young people that I knew in my gentle husband.

  7. Delightful story Amy! The donors most likely did not know the worth of those chairs. But that doesn’t discount your ‘the presence of a saintly fingerprint on each of their heart’ theory one bit 🙂

    • This was on our national news as well. My brother who is not a church goer had heard about it! I’d be very surprised if your aunt is not aware of it, Jacqueline. (I wonder if the story brought many to the church – just in case there’s another treasure! 🙂 )

  8. You’re right, Amy, this is an enticing line of research! There is an Acts of Andrew and Matthias – the Early Church decided this was heretical writing from the second century: but I’d be interested to read it. Lots to dig out, I think. Thank you!

  9. Terrific story. Though I’m disinclined toward religion (attending Catholic school for 12 years run by sadistic nuns did me in) I nevertheless enjoy reading about the lives of saints. I didn’t realize there was a patron saint of alcoholics. I have one in my family. I need to somehow make him known to her. Wonderful story about the chairs. Some millionaire did something good with all that money whether they realized it or not. Mysterious how the universe works.

    • Thanks for the visit, Steph. Religion. Yah, well… My studies in Theology confirmed the patriarchal chokehold there is and has been in religion. I’ve enjoyed the friendship of a few female Anglican priests. I know the struggle they experience(d) in that system. Seems to me they must love God more than most to stick with it.

      I enjoy learning about the beginnings of some of the saints. For some, it’s a miracle they ever achieved sainthood. Usually I can’t figure out why they represent certain aspects of life, but there’s surely a story behind it! 😀

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