The reverse side of the crucifix of John F. Kennedy's Rosary, which will be up for auction this month, shortly before the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

The reverse side of the crucifix of John F. Kennedy’s Rosary, which will be up for auction this month, shortly before the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Photo courtesy of RR Auction

They’re coming up for auction later this month, just ahead of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.

The black onyx beads, and a sterling silver crucifix with Kennedy’s name engraved on it, were given by the president to his friend and special assistant, David Powers.

From the letter of provenance from Powers’ son:

“Many consider my father to have been President Kennedy’s best friend and confidant. They campaigned together from 1946 to 1963, and traveled the world together on presidential visits. During their travels, they frequently attended mass and would always make 3 wishes at each new Church per Roman Catholic tradition.”

“Kennedy would often relate that his wishes pertained to winning key states in the next election. The Rosary Beads and Silver Cross engraved ‘John F. Kennedy’ were gifted to my father by JFK and my father cherished them. My father was in the fateful motorcade in Dallas, right behind President Kennedy’s vehicle. I can imagine that reflecting with these rosary beads gave my father comfort in the years after the President’s death.”

So I’m a waaaay post-Vatican II Catholic and the “three wishes” tradition is unfamiliar to me. But Kennedy wishing to win key electoral states rings true, from what we know of him.

More details from RR Auction of New Hampshire, which will handle the live bidding in Boston on Oct. 24:

Though one would not get his or her own rosary engraved, it was common for upper-class Catholics to do so when giving it as a gift; with Jackie’s known penchant for personalizing meaningful pieces that she gave her husband, and with her undeniable eye for the finest modern styles, it is likely that this was a gift to Kennedy from his wife.

President Kennedy leaving the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC, with his friend and assistant, David Powers, on May 31, 1962. Kennedy gave Powers the Rosary that will be auctioned this month

President Kennedy leaving the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC, with his friend and assistant, David Powers, on May 31, 1962. Kennedy gave Powers the Rosary that will be auctioned this month Photo courtesy of RR Auction

The auction house also notes, without irony:

Trying to balance family life with the pressures of political life, it is understandable that this rosary should show such wear, with the sterling heavily rubbed and the onyx beads slightly chipped.

“This is by far one of the most remarkable, personal pieces of President Kennedy’s that has ever come to auction,” Bobby Livingston, VP at RR Auction, says in a press release. “Holding incredible significance in its signs of daily use and its representation of the faith that carried him through life.”

So is bidding on these beads ghoulish or akin to buying a relic? I mean, JFK was no saint, but we hope for his soul as much as our own. Then again, the jokes this could prompt about the effficacy, or lack thereof, of a traditional prayer may raise a warning flag.

Then again, a portion of the proceeds of the sale will be donated to the David Powers Foundation, a non-profit helping The Boys and Girls Club and Military Families.

 

13 Comments

  1. I may be mistaken, but I thought a “first-class relic” referred to part of the person’s body, and that JFK’s rosary would be a “second-class relic,” something that touched his body during his lifetime. Anyone know for sure?

  2. Deborah Ketcham

    “Relic” applies to a Saint. JFK was no Saint but Padre Pio said he was in Heaven. And there is no Catholic custom of “three wishes”. That is when you rub a genie’s lamp. Three prayers at entering a Catholic Church the very first time you visit is sometimes said, but is sort of superstitious rather than truly religious and has no Catholic teaching behind it.

  3. Sounds like we’re selling relics and indulgences again. If it’s relics you’re after, make sure they’re genuine. Of course, that’s hardly possible. “Stealing Heaven” was a great movie in which the bishop uncle of Peter Abelard’s lover is unexpectedly caught “creating” relics out of chicken bones for later sale.

  4. I have a question for David Gibson. What happened to the reporter who used to write for the RNS, an Italian fellow whose first name was Alessandro? I have forgotten his surname because he’s been missing so long. He did good work.

    gilhcan@gmail.com

  5. David Gibson

    David Gibson

    Post author

    gilhcan: Alas, Alessandro Speciale got hired away by Bloomberg — he’s based in Germany now, where the pasta is not as good as in Rome, I’m sure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.