Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Joan d'Arc, Patron Saint Against Swearing. Pray For My Soul!

Dammit!  I hate that I am so inclined to use swear words to describe things.  I see nothing wrong with using the occasional curse word to emphasize the importance of something, like you might use an exclamation point.  Sadly, I have a propensity for using profanity arranged in a variety of creative ways when I am overwhelmed.  Believe me when I say I have certainly had some periods of time in my life when I thought only swear words could work to express the intensity of my feelings.  As a middle aged woman wearing pearls, it's not easy to look a priest in the eye, asking the Father for forgiveness for being able to embarrass even a sailor.

Profanity is sneaky.  It slides into empty spots in conversation like a banana slug, slowly over time until you get used to it.  When I am overwhelmed and tired sometimes it is just easier to use a swear word or three rather than get in touch with the right words to describe my real feelings. 

Prayer card found in my Grandmother's bible
Lenten Season seems like a good time to face my weaknesses, engage in some spiritual self-discipline and spend some time scrutinizing my sins, hopefully fostering a growth spurt in virtue.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is the 40 days prior to Easter, which as most of us know, celebrates the Resurrection.  Most commonly we hear about what someone gives up for Lent....Chocolate, red meat, junk food, sugar seem to be the ones people talk about but giving up sinful behavior usually goes unmentioned.  So I am making a commitment to give up curse words for Lent and hopefully, with a lot of prayer and contemplation, to continue beyond the seeming eternity of forty days and forty nights.        

I learned to swear from my sister when I was 10.  She methodically taught me every curse word she had learned from my brothers and being as good student, I memorized them with gusto, not understanding their meaning but liking the forbidden sounds.  My mother was furious when she heard me.  Using her strongest term, she said she was "Sore as a boiled owl" at my sister, a colorful phrase I am personally trying to resurrect in place of other colorful phrases I am known to use.  I've decided that I will need the help of a saint to intercede on my behalf and assist me in maintaining my resolve.

Most people don't know that Joan of Arc is the Patron Saint of Profanity. Instead we know her as the Patron Saint of Soldiers, martyrs, captives, the military, prisoners of war and women who have served their country.  She was born in France in 1412 and her full name was Jeanne d' Arc... no, she did not build the Ark...Noah did and that's a future blog.  Only the French, who had tried everything and failed would allow an illiterate farm girl claiming she had hear the voice of God, to take charge of the country's army and  lead it to victory against the English.  It is a remarkable story if you consider Joan was 17 years old when she became the heroine of France.  Later she was captured and burned at the stake as a heretic by the English in 1431 for not renouncing the voices she heard and her resulting actions.

Jeanne d' Arc in Prayer After Battle
As far as miracles go, St. Joan got an army full of battle hardened soldiers to cease swearing.  It is told that she chastised a soldier for swearing in her presence and he laughed at her.  Later in the day he fell in a well and drowned.  Dang, the girl's got some connections, I'd say, when it comes to motivating people to quit swearing.

So, I recall my mother's favorite sayings.  Make a vow to incorporate them into my vocabulary in place of my more commonly used phrases..."On the Peck" "How the Cow Ate the Cabbage" "Pinch a Loaf" "Oh,Spit" "Acknowledge the Corn" "Addlepated" "Copacetic" "Even and Odd Ate the Cake"  Knowing 40 days means a really long time, I'm more than a little nervous about being successful in my quest.  So like Joan, I get on my knees and pray humbly before all to stay focused, calm and clear about my petition, remembering St. Joan's saying "I am not afraid.  I was born to do this".  






Thursday, February 12, 2015

St. Valentine, Love is Not for Cowards!

Postcard found in my mother's jewelry box.
I'm always uncomfortable with Valentine's Day.  I get nervous because it seems like expectations get in the way of reality for both men and women leaving a pathway for helplessness, disappointment and confusion.  I loath the ads for teddy bears, rose bouquets, chocolate covered strawberries, pajamas and whatever other inventive things marketing experts come up with.  The man that loves me would know those gifts would be the easy way out, buying silence and a smile but not really reaching deep into my heart.  I want a man who knows that any time of the year the simple bouquet of tulips, the love note left on my car window, the respectful conversation about my bad habits or the drive out to the river with sandwiches is valued over how many roses I get on the 14th.  It's easy to suddenly remember you need to show someone you love them one day a year while you've been busy with life.  Steadfastly showing you love them the other 364 days is what's hard.  

The truest love I know is the one I saw my parents had for one another.  They first met on the steps of the catholic church in Portland.  My father had just come from Germany with his "Doctorate of Mercantile", the touted brilliant nephew of the Columbia Brickyard and Building Supply founders.  I've seen the pictures.  Both my mother and father looked young, painfully thin and scared but eager to begin a life.  As they would tell the story, it was love at first sight.  My mother always said she was "18 going on 19" when she married my father and every time I would howl with laughter at her defense of marrying so young.  

I don't recall my father ever buying my mother a dozen roses but his skill at growing roses was legendary. The early morning hours he spent in the rose garden propagating, pruning and feeding each plant in his quest for the perfect rose led to many breathtaking bouquets on days other than February 14th.

Our strawberries were grown in a raised box so my mother wouldn't have to stoop over to weed them.  Dipping them in chocolate wasn't necessary since her strawberries were warm, sweet and juicy right from the plant.  We chose not to mask the taste of an honest strawberry grown in the earth, using rain water and real sun instead of a plastic greenhouse to ripen.

Where have we lost our way?  Teddy bears?  Pajamas?  My parents used what we had.  These things were handed down.  Each of us was a conduit for stuff that passed through our hands to the next until no more passing was possible.  Valentines wasn't a special day.  It was a way of living a life with meaning and a commitment to daily acts of love no matter how hard it seemed in the moment.

Little is known of St. Valentine but historians believe he was a real person since acheoligists uncovered a catacomb and a church dedicated to him.  It is believed  that he was martyred for not renouncing his faith and was found guilty of aiding Christians who were persecuted and marrying couples in a Christian mass.  For this he was beaten, stoned and finally beheaded sometime around 270AD.  In 496AD, the pope named February 14th as the celebration day in honor of his martyrdom.

My parents on their wedding day
St.  Valentine is the Patron Saint of Lovers, bee keepers, engaged couples, traveling, against epilepsy, plague, fainting and more.  As you can see,  he has been a very busy saint, called upon to intercede for a variety of reasons.  Most of all, he is known for his commitment to his beliefs and determination to his love of God, willing to give up his life rather than give up his love.

Some believe love shows a weakness and vulnerability.  Not my parents.  My mother showed such a fierce love for my father that no one, not even her children could come between them.  My father had a  steadfast, strong and committed love for my mother that never wavered even in the darkest times.  The name Valentine comes from the same root as valor or valiant, which implies a nervy stouthearted undaunted strength which is what is needed for real love to endure. Chocolate?  Roses?  Pajamas?  Those are for the cautious and timid, weak of heart.  Cowards all.  When it comes to love, St. Valentine teaches us that love takes strength, commitment and fierceness.  St. Valentine showed us love is not for cowards..