Loosely Connected Thoughts on Sainthood

When the movie St. Vincent came out earlier this year and my friend Pat told me to go see it, I heeded his advice.

A little backstory here. If Pat tells me to read a book, see a movie or listen to a song, I act immediately. No Google research or Amazon reviews are needed. Pat’s recommendation is gold. Over 15 years ago, we saw Van Morrison perform in Madrid together. And his favorite book is Catcher in the Rye. I could go on and on with his resume, but suffice to say I trust his judgement. (Now, I know, thousands of miles away, he will read that sentence and humbly and sarcastically make some self-effacing comments…as well as question my own judgement.)

I will say that I have an equal appreciation for Bill Murray. From his authority-dismissing role in Stripes to his “gunga galunga” in Caddyshack, I am amazed that the guy could keep a straight face in any of his movies. What’s more, I respect loveable characters that so blatantly disregard protocol and societal expectations.

The character St. Vincent was endearing to me right off the bat with a bar scene and an Irish joke.

A women answers a knock on the door and an Irish man asks if she has any work he can do. She responds that she needs to have her porch painted. He agrees and two hours later he knocks again and tells her he’s finished. As he is leaving he says,”Lady, just so you know, that wasn’t a Porsche, it was a BMW.”

This caricature of an imperfect man navigating his way through life took me back to so many guys my dad knew when we were kids. We visited guys like this on Sunday drives, appearing at the homes of fellow paper mill workers and Army buddies. This was the “stuff” of life. Trying to make a go of it amidst financial hardship, illness, aging, and washing it all down with one too many drinks.

I fell so hard and fast for St. Vincent that I had to go see the movie again…a few days later. The second time I arrived more prepared, with a notebook in hand to capture the wisdom of this everyday saint. I’m including my favorite quotes below for two reasons. One, I need a handy place to go to reference these life lessons. Two, the crumpled up papers at the bottom of my purse that bear these words, heroically surviving despite spilled coffees and leaky pens, may not last much longer.

One last note: I want to convey my appreciation and admiration of this character without giving away any of the plot. Because you just need to go see this movie yourself.

‘It is what it is.’ Everyone’s sayin that now. You know what it means? You’re screwed and shall remain screwed.

You’re just a spoke on a wheel. I don’t want to have to tell you… (See the movie for the second half of this quote.)

[To the bartender] You serve poison to all these people all day who don’t know no better and you’re watching out for me?

I’m a Catholic, Oliver, which is the best religion because we have the most rules and the best clothes. I don’t know which is the fastest growing religion in the world.

I thought we talked about you not talking.

You can’t get nothing in this world without being heard.

[Re: Abbott & Costello] They’re dead. That’s the oldest you can be.

I don’t need to hear the whole story.

Everything has a price. You’re an adult, you should know that.

Ya waitin for a paper invitation?

[On fighting] Vincent: Who taught you how to slap? You need to unlearn that.
Oliver: If you haven’t noticed, I’m small.
Vincent: Hitler was small.
Oliver: That’s a horrible comparison.
Vincent: Indeed. But I’m making a point.

Vinny, why you always gotta do things the hard way? [Response] It’s a lot more interesting.

Finally, the best quote of the film, a reflection of grief support:

Sorry for your loss.
I never understood why people say that.
How about ‘What was she like?’, ‘Do you miss her?’, or ‘What are you gonna do now?’

I have been awake since 2:14 AM this morning thinking about this blog post, which I started writing in my head late last winter. Then my mind wandered to last weekend. And the Randolph Street Market in Chicago. And the small rack of saints’ cards and medallions one of the vendors had, with proceeds going to some Catholic nuns in the city.

I took this card, Saint Dymphna, and gave a donation. Apparently she is the patron saint for the mentally ill. She, too, was Irish and she bore the brunt of her father’s mental illness.

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While I am not Catholic, I do appreciate the sentiment. I like the thought of saints, dedicated to a certain cause or ailment. Like the Henry Ford system, but for prayer. Specialized roles.

And while we’re on the topic, there’s a saint in the making that I want to mention. I had the good fortune to get a little time on her calendar last weekend. Unlike Vincent and Dymphna, she is not Irish. She has a pierced septum and within the past year she has had both dreadlocks and purple hair. What none of these possibly shocking traits will tell you is that she has a heart for social justice. What happened in Ferguson tore her up from the inside out. Her boyfriend has a different skin color than her own and she has experienced a police interrogation just for walking down the street with him, and other girls flirt with him in front of her because it is assumed they are not a couple. (A confident woman, she is sweetly entertained by this social dynamic.)

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               Hannah / Chicago / 2015

This semester, she is living in an apartment in downtown Chicago, learning about urban theology and serving the people of the city. She’s one of my heroes. We need people like her, and her love for humanity, to keep our world moving forward in a good direction.

And we need the St. Vincents. The covert saints with wide open struggles, that need our help and help us in return. Little by little, saving one another.

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