John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy, the First Catholic President: Personally-Owned St. Christopher Medallion Given to Him While President only Months Before His Assassination. Fantastic provenance!

John F. Kennedy, the First Catholic President: Personally-Owned St. Christopher Medallion Given to Him While President only Months Before His Assassination. Fantastic provenance!


John Kennedy's personally owned Saint Christopher Medallion Key Chain, engraved "TO JK FROM BISHOP CHOI". This lot is further accompanied by a photocopy of a letter from Bishop John A. Choi Jae-Seaon, stamped with received date of February 27, 1963, and was the letter that accompanied the Saint Christopher medal sent to Kennedy while in office. From 1956-1975, Bishop Choi Jae-Seaon was known for giving Saint Christopher medals and Rosaries to American G.I.'s as well as dignitaries often together with an appealing letter. Jae-Seaon was bishop of the Diocese of Pusan and died on June 3, 2008 at the age of 96.


The spiritual significance of this piece and the accompanying letter cannot be overstated. Kennedy was the first Catholic President, as such Catholic artifacts owned by Kennedy have a unique meaning. St. Christopher is the Saint of Protection who is called upon in various situations to offer protection against harm and any evil lurking about. Saint Christopher's most famous legend, which is mainly known from the West and may draw from Ancient Greek mythology, tells that he carried a child, who was unknown to him, across a river before the child revealed himself as Christ. Therefore, he is the patron saint of travelers, and small images of him are often worn around the neck, on a bracelet, carried in a pocket, or even placed in vehicles by Christians.


The accompanying letter from Bishop Choi Jae-Seaon notes that he had sent the gift to President Kennedy to inspire donations for his people in Korea who were poor, starving and without medicine. However the Bishop's letter, received only 9 months before the President's assassination (in a vehicle), also rang of foreboding eerie passages: "Centuries ago, John Donne said that when a man dies, every one of us dies a little. Over a span of 300 years we hear a phrase that grimly fits a grim 1962: Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls … it tolls for thee."


The longer version of this phrase from John Donne is shown below:

John Donne (1572-1631), Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII: Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris:

"Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.


No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."




Donne lived in Tudor and Stewart England, and at that time the tolling of church bells to mark various events was an important feature of daily life. The tolling referred to in the quotation is, of course, that of funeral bells. Donne's view, which has, oddly for a 17th century Christian, much in common with 21st century eastern religions, was that all people are socially and spiritually interconnected. Versions of this phrase were additionally used by Hemingway for the title of his 1940- published book, For Whom The Bell Tolls. An author whom Kennedy avidly read.


The original letter from Bishop Choi, was later sent to the JFK Presidential Library. The Saint Christopher medallion made its way to become a part of Sister Fabiola Parent's display alongside President Kennedy's rosary. Sister "Fab" was an avid rosary collector who also fashioned her own rosaries and was the curator and founder of her rosary museum, Sinsinawa Rosary Museum, located at the Sinsinawa [Wisconsin] Sisterhood.  "Sister Fab" actively collected rosaries from around the world, both "mundane" and historical. She also designed and created Rosaries from most any natural material, having made over 28,000 rosaries in her lifetime. After Kennedy's death, during her visit to Kennedy's grave, Sister 'Fab" collected rose petals from the rose bushes around Kennedy's gravesite and created a rosary which she sent to his mother, Rose. In return, Rose had sent Sister Fab her son's rosary in 1974.  This lovely Saint Christopher medal was placed alongside within the same display in her museum as Kennedy's rosaries.


Kennedy's rosary and Saint Christopher medal was placed on display in Sister Fabriola's rosary museum, showcased on a red velvet display board. Numerous newspapers of the period, including the 'Telegraph Herald", "The Observer', the "Catholic Herald", the "Des Moines Register", and "The Courier", all made note of her famous collection, often including images of her Kennedy display. Copies of the various newspaper articles, and the letter from Bishop John A. Choi Jae-Seaon will accompany this lot for provenance, in addition to a photograph of the original display from which the Medallion was recently removed.


Item: 65088

Price: $12,000.00
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John F. Kennedy
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