A suspect has been apprehended for the desecration of a monastery altar in Subiaco, Arkansas.
On Thursday, Jan. 5, a vandal entered the Subiaco Abbey with a sledgehammer and bashed open the top of the altar.
Using a sledgehammer, a conventional hammer, and an axe, the vandal dug into the slab of stone and stole two reliquaries containing three relics.
The man reportedly began tampering with the tabernacle, removing the cross sitting atop it, before being discovered and fleeing.
“By piecing together the testimony from multiple witness who had seen a strange man on campus earlier, we were fairly confident that we had seen him previously in our Church,” Subiaco Abbey said in an official press released. “Out of an abundance of caution, our Academy students were locked down while the investigation proceeded.”
However, the investigation did not need to look far.
The abbey recounted, “Ironically, after the deputies had left, the gentleman in question decided to return to the Church. The Logan County deputies were called and they quickly returned. One of our monks spoke to the gentleman, and it became clear he was the one who had done the damage. He was arrested, his vehicle towed, and further investigations are ongoing.”
Jerrid Farnam, 31, was arrested Thursday in connection with the vandalism and theft.
One of the stolen reliquaries was reportedly recovered from Farnam’s vehicle, containing all three stolen relics.
Authorities also found a sledgehammer and other tools believed to have been used in the crime.
A relic is a mortal remain of a saint — typically a fragment of their body. Relics are often placed inside Catholic altars upon consecration. The Catholic Church teaches that this is a continuation of an early Christian practice of celebrating mass over the tombs of other martyred Christians.
The relics stolen from Subiaco Abbey reportedly belonged to St. Tiberius, St. Marcellu, and St. Justina.
“Due to the desecration of the altar, Abbot Elijah and the monastic community will undertake the ‘Public Prayer after the Desecration of a Church.’ In accordance with the prescriptions, the altar of the church has been stripped bare and all customary signs of joy and gladness have been put away,” Subiaco Abbey announced.