I'm reading St. Lucy's School for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. I haven't been able to figure out exactly what "Saint-in-the-Box" means (I googled it) in the following:

'Does Mirabella try to earn Skill Points by shelling walnuts and polishing Saint-in-the-Box? No. Does Mirabella even know how to say the word walnut? Has she learned how to say anything besides a sinful "HraaaHA!" as she commits frottage against the organ pipes? No.'

The school has nuns.

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    I guess it's just a statue of a saint that is kept in a (glass?) box and one of the chores the girls have to perform is keeping it clean?
    – oerkelens
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 19:45
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    As you discovered, it's not a common word or phrase that has been captured in a dictionary. Making this a literature interpretation request, so you're asking the wrong experts. Might try the Literature beta.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 19:50
  • It seems that Mirabella believes that frottage is more worthy than a polishing a canned saint. Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 20:23
  • "Commits frottage against the organ pipes" refers to a solitary sexual activity. This leads me to think that "polishing saint-in-the-box" means self-stimulation of the clitoris. This is something to ask someone familiar with the author's work. As noted above, try Literature.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 20:33
  • I had the idea of looking for this in Spanish. After trying a couple different formulations, I arrived at retablo, which is apparently altarpiece. I hope someone who understands Catholicism or religious artefacts will respond. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 3:28

2 Answers 2


It seems that in the catholic world a saint in a box is a figurine of a saint:

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From a web shop


Having found an online source for the story and read it, the term 'saint-in-the-box' would seem to refer to some object that would be commonly found in a catholic boarding school. There seem to be three possibilities:

Reliquaries seem more likely to be held in churches than schools and the folding icons more generally depict the Virgin Mary. This leaves the most likely 'saint in a box' as statue of the eponymous St Lucy, displayed in a glass case with wooden or metal framing.

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