Brain of One of Italy's Most Revered Saints Found in a Teapot

A plaster replica of Saint John Bosco on display in Liverpool
A plaster replica of Saint John Bosco on display in Liverpool
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

It's not every day you find a saint's brain in the kitchen cupboard.

John Bosco, one of Italy's most popular saints, was a 19th century Roman Catholic priest, writer, and educator known for his work helping impoverished youth. He founded the Salesian religious order in 1859, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934. These days, more than 600,000 pilgrims a year visit his basilica in Castelnuovo, near Turin.

But on June 3, some of those pilgrims were disappointed to find a small room near the altar of the basilica that normally holds some of his relics marked "Closed. Under Construction." Soon the church revealed there was no construction—a thief dressed as a pilgrim had made off with a reliquary containing fragments of the saint's brain the evening before.

Police set up roadblocks around northern Italy and searched cars, while faithful Catholics around the world prayed for the relic's safe return. Italian newspapers speculated that the relic had been stolen for ransom, or (more ominously) a "satanic rite."

Fortunately, it didn't take long for police to find some suspicious fingerprints on the glass protecting the reliquary, as well as some shoeprints nearby. After submitting the prints to a forensic lab in Parma, digital fingerprint technology found a match, as The Telegraph reports: a 42-year-old man with a record living in Pinerolo, near Turin. The authorities have identified him only as "C.G."

After obtaining a search warrant, police found the reliquary intact in the man's kitchen cupboard, nestled inside a copper teapot. C.G. apparently believed the reliquary was made of solid gold (it's not), and would fetch a hefty sum. The recovery of the relic was announced on June 16, and it is now safely back in the basilica.

Bosco's brain is far from the only pilfered relic, which Catholics believe can be used for healing, protection, and sometimes even miracles. During the Middle Ages, when dead saints were celebrities, there was a thriving trade in relics stolen (or "translated") from one church for another. More recently, thieves have been stealing relics for ransom, to sell to collectors, or for more obscure reasons—such as the theft of the 800-year-old preserved heart of St. Laurence O'Toole from Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Enrico Stasi, the Salesian provincial for the Piedmont region, told The Telegraph the Carabinieri (Italian military police) had done an "excellent job" recovering the relic. "Obviously we are very, very happy," he said.

[h/t BizzarroBazar]

Jazz Icon Charles Mingus Wrote a Manual for Toilet Training Your Cat

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iStock

Imagine it's the 1950s and you're in a basement jazz club in New York City. A haze of smoke lingers in a dusky room, glasses clink as waiters drop off martinis and Manhattans, and people bop their heads to the sounds of Charles Mingus, the hottest jazz bassist around. After the performance, Mingus pulls up to the bar and cradles a stiff drink. You approach him, but before you can say anything, the musician turns to you and asks an important question: Hey, man. Where does your cat poop?

This isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. Besides being one of the most revolutionary jazz artists of his day, Mingus was also a passionate advocate for teaching people how to toilet train their cats. So passionate, in fact, that he wrote instructions for a cat toilet training program (he called it the "CAT-alog"), which he routinely tried to sell at his gigs. He even placed print ads so that interested clients could buy his pamphlets via mail order.

The CAT-alog is a reflection of the man as a musician: blunt, concise, and demanding in its details. (You can read the instructions in their entirety here.) He swore by the program's effectiveness, claiming it took three or four weeks for his cat, Nightlife, to transition from the litter box to the porcelain throne.

Here's a breakdown of Mingus's process:

First, teach your cat to use a homemade cardboard litter box. ("Be sure to use torn up newspaper, not kitty litter. Stop using kitty litter. [When the time comes you cannot put sand in a toilet.]") Gradually, begin inching the box toward the bathroom. ("He has to learn how to follow it.") Once you've reached the bathroom, place the box on the toilet. ("Don't bug the cat now, don't rush him, because you might throw him off.") Then cut a small hole in the bottom of the cardboard ("Less than an apple—about the size of a plum."), and gradually cut down the sides of the box until it becomes a flat sheet. ("Put the flat cardboard, which is left, under the lid of the toilet seat, and pray.") Then, one day, remove the cardboard entirely.

Mingus insisted that, with patience, his methods would work. In fact, he advised: "Don't be surprised if you hear the toilet flush in the middle of the night. A cat can learn how to do it, spurred on by his instinct to cover up." In 2014, however, Studio 360 at WNYC put Mingus's instructions to the test … and failed.

Some cats, Mingus admits, just aren't "as smart as Nightlife was." But he'd likely agree that cats, like jazz musicians, really aren't the types to be bossed around.

For more, please listen to actor Reg E. Cathey read a silky smooth excerpt of Mingus's CAT-alog here. Trust us: You'll be glad you did.

Want to Live in Antarctica? Better Schedule an Appendectomy

While taking up residence in most towns is as easy as finding a place to stay, the requirements to live in Villa Las Estrellas—a Chilean town and research station in Antarctica—are a little bit stricter. In fact, you have to have surgery. Every person who stays in the town long-term has to have their appendix removed, according to the BBC.

Villa Las Estrellas is one of just two civilian settlements in Antarctica, located on King George Island. Most of the residents are scientists or members of the Chilean military, but some families do live there year-round. Located at the Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva military base, the town is equipped with a school, a library, a post office, a radio station, a bank, a supermarket, and a few homes.

Many people only stay in Villa Las Estrellas during the summer, but for those few dozen people who live at the base all year, appendix removal is one of the terms of residence, even for children. That's because the nearest hospital is more than 600 miles away. While there is basic medical care on the island, any serious treatment requires making the long journey to the Chilean mainland.

A ruptured appendix is a life-threatening situation, and requires immediate surgery. That's hard to get when you're 625 miles away from the hospital. So as a precaution, Villa Las Estrellas residents get preemptive appendectomies.

Surgery is just one of many discomforts that must be endured as a resident of Antarctica. It's a place where the mean annual temperature is 27.8°F, and residents sometimes can't leave the house for weeks. During the winter, there are entire days when the sun is only up for a scant few hours, while in the summer it's barely ever dark. Fresh vegetables are a rarity. Oh, and dogs are banned. But at least there are a lot of penguins.

[h/t BBC]

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