NOTE: We at T&C love the elderly members of the Church and recognize each as a special gift from God. Following in our tradition of pointing out humorous observation on the foibles of Catholic life, this post is intended as a humorous and intentionally over-generalizing article poking a little light-hearted fun at a group we hold close to our hearts. It is meant with all respect to our dearly beloved elderly Catholics – because, goodness knows, we young Catholics are too easy to joke about. Please do not read further if you lack a sense of humor or are otherwise a grump.
“What?” Students asked.
“The Little Old Ladies. They pray. A lot. Make them pray for you.”
A recent conversation on the Facebook wall of a priest friend reminded me of this quote and the many types of LOLz I’ve encountered over the years. Why not make a catalog? Below, you’ll find an outline of several different categories of LOLz in the Church today.
- The Hat Lady – This particular LOL is as eccentric as the many hats she wears as she goes about her day, often taking care of church business in her own flighty way. Living in the moment, she often gets notions – whether from the Holy Spirit or from the slow creep of dementia – that she feels entirely free to share with whomever is standing nearby. It was a hat lady (not one suffering from dementia) who once told me, simply because she saw me at one daily Mass, that I should enter the seminary. She wasn’t disappointed when I showed her my wedding ring. She realized I was making new little Catholics and that brought a smile to her face. I love that lady.
- The Conspirator – One summer in college, I served a brief stint working as a copy monkey at a national copy center chain (I won’t name it, but it rhymes with Dinko’s). It was crazier work than you might expect. One LOL who frequented our shop had me fax the Vatican and the White House regarding money she claimed the president owed her for successfully predicting a flood and saving millions in property damages. (The Pope, she said, was to testify on her behalf.) Several weeks later, she had childishly drawn (in crayon) pictures she wanted to have color-copied. They were not the work of her grandchild. They were her own work. According to her story, after settling the federal government’s massive debt to her clairvoyance, a number of White House employees saw her work and requested personal copies at $250 each. Where did she go to make quality copies for that remarkably low sales price? That place that rhymes with Dinko’s, of course! A third visit, she mentioned in passing that her spiritual director was the Vatican Secretary of State, whose name had just months before been plastered all over the news surrounding the 2005 conclave. I asked, “Oh, Cardinal Sedano?” “Who?!” She asked, surprised. The fourth visit, however, was when the conspiracies really got going. “Do you know who’s responsible for all this mess the world is in?” She asked. Expecting to hear “the Freemasons,” I asked her to continue. Unsettlingly, she proceeded to blame the entire state of affairs on an ethnic minority – one of whom was standing behind her in line. My manager demanded she never return.
- The Walking Chapel – Beads swinging from her hands, Our Lady of Everything pinned to her shirt, a Magnificat in her oversized plaid purse, this LOL is putting the rest of us to shame getting ready for the afterlife. You know the one I’m talking about. Her whole life revolves around two things: 1) making sure she’s prepared for eternity, and 2) making sure the thermostat in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel is permanently set to 95° F. She’ll ask your intentions and then pray for you in 7 different languages. Her prayers are answered before she opens her mouth. Okay, I’m going to stop now because she’s starting to sound like the most interesting LOL in the world.
- The Grandma – If you work for the Church, this LOL is dangerous. You might have a heart attack. Why? She’ll smother you with cookies. If it’s not a heart attack that finishes you off, it might be diabetes. She’s so sweet. She’ll ask about every detail of your life. Then, when you’re off to take care of something for Father after Mass, she’ll pinch all your kids’ cheeks. That is, of course, before she goes to take care of all her own work after Mass. This LOL so loves catering to the needs of others that she’s also the food purveyor for the RCIA meeting, the Bible study, the Pre-Cana retreat, and the Pastoral Council meeting. If he didn’t lock her out of the rectory, she’d fresh-squeeze the pastor some orange juice every morning at dawn.
- The Busybody – The LOL who is constantly trying to carry out her 60’s era plan to dominate the Church and hand over the reigns to the female half of the human race will drive you batty. Of course, it’s not always for some radical feminism (but often is) – it is enough for their purpose to be interference in every part of your job as a church employee or your life as a parishioner. As a youth minister, one of these LOLs once insisted that I immediately reach out to every youth in the tri-state area (yes, I exaggerate, but not much) to bring them into our program, even at the cost of my burnout. It didn’t matter that the demand was irrational and would’ve been bad planning on my part. I was to do it because she had told me to and she, being a LOL, knew what was best. Then I asked whether I was supposed to hold my 100+ person events in the youth center (also known as the double-wide in the parking lot), she suggested I hold the events in the field next door – the one infested with snakes in the humid, 107° F Louisiana summer. Another Busybody once insisted that I defy doctor’s orders to go on a youth canoe trip despite the fact that my wife had a burgeoning womb and a high-risk pregnancy. Her reason? Military spouses (read: her husband) frequently miss the birth of their kids due to their jobs, so everyone should.
- The Penitent – At weekday Mass once back in Omaha, I ran into my old 2nd grade teacher (who was also my 6th grade teacher). She told me she had breast cancer. I could see from the way she said it that she was concerned about her health and was attempting to make peace with God. I don’t know what happened to her – I hope she’s alive and well! – but I’ve met others like her. LOLs, memento mori!
- Unapproved Marian Apparition Devotee* – If you do what this LOL says, you will shave off several years of purgatory, be guaranteed heaven, and prevent scurvy for the next six generations of your progeny.
What about you? Do you know any other kinds of LOLs?
(Please be charitable in the combox.)
*Thanks to Dr. Tim Shaughnessy for suggesting this last one before publication.