Friday, April 11, 2014

St. Jude, Patron Saint of the Impossible

Have you ever taken one of those psychological profile tests with questions like "Would you rather be lost in a huge scrap-booking warehouse or take your demented grandmother to the carnival?"  Both sound like horrific nightmares to me. I once had to take a Causality Dilemma Test to prove I wasn't mentally ill.  It was kind of fun.  I put my eye makeup on my lips and my lipstick on my eyes and didn't use any hair gel.  I figured if they think I'm a nut case, lets go with that.  It was one of those tests that asks the type of questions where there is no right answer.  You want to say, ":Whoa, I wouldn't be in that situation to begin with.  Would I rather have a fatal car accident or unknowingly drink strychnine?  Yes, please!".   The questions are annoying at best and you are going to sound like you're on a day pass from the asylum regardless of your answer. Ask me something I know for sure like..."Would you rather be dead or continue taking this test?"  Dilemmas are what make you look for answers elsewhere.

St. Jude Holy Card from Chris Hart Studio
St. Jude is the Patron Saint of the Impossible, hopeless cases, lost souls and lost causes.  That brings the saddest of the sad out of the woodwork to ask him for help.  People who have no job and are losing their family's home, those who have suffered illness and injury for which there is no recovery,  people who are caught in financial, emotional or physical dilemmas that seemingly have no solution and those who have lost their soul because of the destruction of personal relationships.    

I have a crush on St. Jude (not to be confused with the traitor Judas).  First of all, he is often portrayed as a big handsome guy who wears robes and seems to have a strong sense of self.  Very little is known about him historically.   He's a quiet man who does nice things for people in need.  That's my kind of guy.  As a matter of fact, he has done more for the downtrodden since his death than when he was alive.  He is often shown with a flame shooting out of his head, a symbol of the Holy Spirit and sometimes he is holding a club, the symbol of his martyrdom.  I dated a club carrying guy with flames shooting out of his head but he was no saint.  

When my mother broke her right hip at 98, it was a challenge.  Getting her through it was doable with dedication to her care and extensive rehab but when she shattered her left pelvis 4 months later, her raw animal pain was more than I could bear. I was told she could only be released to a nursing home with no hope of recovery.  I decided to bring her home to die. The only way to relieve her pain was to be flat on her back in a traction device her grandson invented.  If there is a hell on earth, this was it for sure.  She was bathed, changed and fed all while keeping her pelvis supported in the same flat position, stabilized by a rope and a bag of rocks hanging off the end of the bed.  Hospice was brought in to keep her comfortable.  I was told that it was impossible to recover from this kind of break at her age.  We could look forward to having complications like infections, bedsores or pneumonia.  The question on this insanity test was..."Would you rather your mother died now, her last memory of life on earth the angst of horrific pain or would you prefer she take her time calmly dying from nasty bedsore infections which finally invade her entire body?"  

 I was deeply effected by her pain.  It was truly a hopeless case. Then I remembered years ago chuckling at my mother for putting a classified ad in the newspaper thanking St. Jude for interceding on behalf of a dear friend who had a terminal illness.  As the helper of the hopeless, St. Jude asks us to persevere no matter how harsh or difficult our circumstances seem.  You see, St. Jude is one of the most powerful intercessors with the Divine.  He has the private number for the hot line  to the Almighty. So I asked St. Jude for his help in delivering my mother from this impossible situation.  I didn't deny that death was imminent. I asked that she be allowed to live her last days without pain and die in peace and then I let go of trying to control the impossible.
St. Jude Statue from Chris Hart Studio
 It felt like I was playing a slot machine for miracles, pouring in the prayers, hoping the cherries lined up. Some weeks later, Hospice told me my mother no longer met their criteria for care.  Instead she was showing signs of thriving.  She wanted to sit up and eat breakfast. She was worried about filling the hummingbird feeder.  Couldn't simply being 99 years old be defined as a terminal condition but who's to argue with Medicare?  

The real gift from St. Jude is that when you ask for his intercession you free yourself from the feeling of  hopelessness, opening the path for what is yet to come. You may not even recognize the answer right away. You must be willing to accept the outcome, find relief in handing over your hopelessness and believe what happens is always what was meant to happen.

My mom died comfortably at 101 of old age, no infections, illnesses or pain.  When cleaning her bedroom after her death, I found a slip of paper. This was what she printed  in the newspaper years ago.  "O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to honor you and gratefully encourage devotion by telling others of your holy intercession. You came to my aide during the darkest of times. I ask that you continue to watch over me and all who invoke your aid. Amen"   



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Living With a Saint Statue. The Basic Rules of Etiquette

When you share your home with a saint statue or two there are some basic rules of etiquette that apply.  It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with them and show a sense of propriety that may help earn you a spot in heaven.  While it alone won't get you there, it may add some weight while you are standing at the gates.  You could say...."I always kept the Blessed Virgin on the top shelf, where I looked up to her and I used a soft cloth when I dusted  her.  No harsh chemicals..." and St. Peter might say in return..."Oh, great! That's exactly what I needed to hear.  You've hit the tipping point. Come on in.".

First rule of thumb is never leave an old saint statue rolling around in a drawer or box destined to Goodwill regardless of how chipped up it is.  It seems every house whether Catholic or not has a least one broken statue that they just can't toss out.  If you can't or don't care to have a professional repair your statue, put it out anyway.  You'll be surprised when you look at a statue every day with chips and dents and a broken finger, how comforting it can be.  Just like us, we show our wear.  History tells a story on our earthly body.  My arthritic ankle tells about a night when I was 11, sneaking out for a moonlit horseback ride. I had to hobble a mile back home with an ankle the size of a football.  The horse was already back at the barn eating his hay while my father waited for me.

The extra wide thumbnail on my right hand is proof that my mother was wrong when she said sucking my thumb would ruin my teeth.  Instead it ruined my nail which grows more ridges than a topographical map now that I am older but also,  it tells about a childhood filled with separation anxiety.  I didn't get the scar on my knee until I turned 34 and began running wilderness ultramarathons.  Falling in Mule Creek Canyon was something I barely noticed until my shoe was warm with blood but that scar holds such great stories of self discovery and confidence.  All these little dings that life hands out, makes us a walking storybook, some grand memories, others deep unsettling heartbreak.  Enjoying the imperfections of an old saint statue can offer us the reminder to embrace our own imperfections, visible or not.

Our Lady of Lourdes from Chris Hart Studio
When I paint a Blessed Mommy statue, I usually paint her eyes looking down.  That is because she is made to be placed above your eye level.  That way you are always looking up to her face, toward heaven.  And that's a rule.  But rules can be broken as in the case of a very large Blessed Mommy statue, 36" or taller, whose eyes I paint looking out and slightly down.  She can be placed lower and because of her height she will appear to be radiating her love out into the world you live in.

Now, the Christ statue is usually shown looking down toward his flock, as well. So try to place the Christ statue up on a shelf or a stand of some type or in a reliquary.  A big rule here is, if you have a statue of both, your Christ statue should be comparable in size to your Mary statue if they are in the same vicinity.  That seems to be an important rule to some.  If you have a disparity in your statue size, put them in different rooms.  Personally, I like this because each saint has a message of it's own and like telekinesis, too much in one place gives you a boat load of spiritual static.  There's enough already out there.

The Blessed Mother and the Christ statues are what I consider to be a direct line to the big gun and I don't usually call them into play until I have exhausted my other saints.  Being raised a good Catholic, I hate to bother God until it's really necessary.  He's pretty busy and I know he hears me regardless of who I am talking to, as long as my petition is clear and honest.  So I prefer to have St.  Lucy where I can see her when I start my day.  She reminds me to see clearly, look below the surface and to be real with those around me.

St. Rita from Chris Hart Studio
St Rita hangs out by my bed.  At the end of my day, she reminds me to be careful what I wish for because I might get it and that makes me mindful of the unintended consequences of negative thought.  Those wasted moments hoping for some disaster to happen to someone that pissed me off are tempered by her wisdom.  Sometimes I wish for bad things to happen to someone I have no control over just to make myself feel better, less angry, less put upon. I can taste it like a glass of wine gone bad.  St. Rita helps me to replace the cork and put it somewhere to mellow.      

I keep a small St. Teresa statue at my work table to bring to mind her love of the simple things in daily living. The value of talking with people when you don't have time, watering the tomatoes on a hellishly hot day, picking up someone elses dog's poop and the inconvenience of doing the dishes after a meal with a loved one.  She helps me see that the chores I sometimes dread are a privilege and not a burden.  Believe me, I don't feel that way by nature but she keeps me mindful enough in the moment to try.  My Aunt Margaret said to me when she was 92..."It was just yesterday when I had my 16th birthday and it's gone in the blink of an eye."  She died a few days later. I don't think she'd mind the opportunity to do tonight's dinner dishes. I thank St. Teresa for trying to turn my resistance into an appreciative act of love, as hard as it may be.

And what about saint statues for non-Catholics?  I say the more the merrier.  One in every home.  Find the saint with a meaning that works for you. The story of how a person became a saint is a story that affects us all.  Their stories are archetypes that help us stay conscious in our own lives.  Yes, I know, you tell me, some of the saints were probably having psychotic visions before Prozac was invented.  So what?  That doesn't make their journey to sainthood any less valuable then your own journey through this crazy life on earth.  Embrace the saints, and be grateful you don't have to be martyred to to learn from their lessons.