In the Harry Potter books and movies, wands are built by encasing the hair (or feather) of a magical creature in wood. Though a spell can be cast without a wand, wands make spell casting easier.
Of course, Harry Potter is fantasy and few of us really believe that the magic performed in the books and movies could be real, or that their are creatures possessed of magical powers whose body parts can assist in the casting of spells. Magic in Harry Potter is a fun idea, but it’s not to be taken any more seriously than the Force in Star Wars.
In 2008, Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Diocese showed up at the bedside of a five year old child diagnosed with stage-three kidney cancer to bless her and pray for her recovery. To assist in the child’s cure, Tobin produced his own version of a Harry Potter magic wand: “a relic containing strands of Mother Teresa’s hair.”
“I always tend to be skeptical of these divine interventions, but it is very clear to me that something very special happened that day,” Tobin said, “When she was blessed with the relic, her body reacted and she opened her eyes.”
Mother Teresa is a nun who died in 1997 and is soon to be recognized as a saint. As part of the process of canonization, the church confirmed two posthumous miracles “obtained from God through the intercession of the candidate.” Upon canonization, a Saint’s body parts can be used in reliquaries, and through the intercession of saints, miracles can happen.
In short, the reliquary used to bolster the power of a Bishop’s blessing serves exactly the same function as the wand used to bolster the power of a Wizard’s spell. The only difference is that no one seriously believes in the Magical powers of Wizards and Wands, but there are many who believe in the Miraculous powers of Bishops and Reliquaries.
But they are exactly the same thing.
Thankfully the little girl recovered and is now, at age 13, cancer free. The church is still examining the medical records of the girl’s recovery to determine if this was an actual miracle.
Whether the cure was effected by “an experimental cocktail of chemotherapy along with two weeks of radiation” or through the magical intercession of a reliquary waving bishop is impossible to determine.
But chemotherapy is real, and Harry Potter is fiction, so…