Losing your head

Call me a bit odd but today’s feast, the Beheading of St. John the Baptist is one of my favorites.


It does help that my name is John – but losing one’s head?

More than two decades ago at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames we did a skit at Thursday Night Liturgy where I lost my head.


The tale as told in the Gospels is intriguing. John is in prison for criticizing Herod’s taking Herodias for his wife. But Herod is still awed by John and likes to listen to him.

The prophet is dangerous, but still it’s fun listening to him.

At Herod’s birthday party, the daughter of his consort dances. Herod offers her anything. Salome goes to her mother for advice.

“The head of John the Baptist,” cries the offended consort.

The child returns and asks for “the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

I’d love to know why she adds the platter. Does she not want to get her hands bloodied with John’s head? On does she see this as just a play, and this is the perfect ending for a banquet?

Whatever it is, John is beheaded. His disciples take away his body.


John is a prop in this drama. His active role was before – baptizing in the Jordan, preparing the way for Jesus, sending his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one who is to come.

But John is someone to be reckoned with.

His message is clear – prepare the Lord’s way. Change what needs to happen, whether it be your relations to others or your relation to God. He had no qualms confronting the leaders of his day – religious or political. But it was all in terms of his willingness to give his all – even his head.

He lost his head in service of God.

Am I willing to lose mine?



2 responses to “Losing your head

  1. Gary Michael Tartakov

    Is it too late to reply and have John take the note? I hope not, John.

    It was such a pleasure to find your head on my “desk top”, while I was searching for a useful photo of that other John’s head, from the transept entrance at Chartres. The pleasure was in recognizing an old friend, or at least warmly remembered acquaintance. Are you still out there in the world? I see this month at the top of your list. I can’t find the note earlier in this post where you say we must face the world with its blood and all to understand it. That is true. And you seem to be, though you are keeping a good mood about your work as is also necessary to keep from letting the tears block out the understanding.

    Carlie and I are still at work too, now in Amherst, Massachusetts, where I am writing about caste and class and cathedrals and Dalits and things.

    • Gary,

      It’s never too late to respond to a blog post.

      I’m glad you found my head – at 69 I sometimes can’t find my keys.

      I love the sculpture of John from Chartres. I have a photo on my wall. I hope that sometime in the next year or two I can visit Chartres again. It’s one of my favorite places.

      I am doing very well, still busy but in a very joy-filled way.

      Greetings to Carlie.

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