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.

I remember distinctly from my time at Steubenville one particular phrase used by Professor James Pauley: “Always hit up the LOLz.”

“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.


  1. Thanks for making me laugh SOOOO hard – (so much so I had to re-put my daughter to sleep because I woke her up in the process of reading this).

    I aspire to be the Grandmotherly-type you mention.

    Oh, and my own living grandmother is the Unapproved Marian Apparition Devotee.

    I must say you seem to have missed one. I would argue that you need to add “The living saint – She attends mass daily. She comes to mass an hour early and stays an hour late in quiet prayerful reflection. You see her, but she is rarely heard from … that is unless you engage her. She is the Mother Teresa of the parish. She is willing to help anyone who seems to need it (and sometimes those who do not)” She seems like your Grandma and Walking Chapel – just a silent one who does the work of God and knows she will be rewarded for her secret works.

  2. I aspire to be a saintly, and Silent LOL. Most of the LOLs in my parish are the ones who loudly chat with everyone before Mass while I am trying to pray and longing for silence. So do a lot of the LOM (Little Old Men).

  3. This was fantastic! As an asipiring LOL, I have a lot of years, hopefully, to fine tune which type of LOL I will finally be. Awesome post.

  4. Whenever these LOLs get together after daily Mass, they say, “Did you see that AMAZING newson yesterday?” Then they pray the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy {and at least 3 other Sorrowful & Inspiring newly revealed (by mystics) novenas intensely together} for all the situations and people and conspiracies in the world! And they rush home to their PCs and Laptops to read the next edition of . Then they make copies on their printers of the latest prayers to save all souls, the USA, the elections and the Universe. This week it looks like we’ll have to start praying&fasting to avert a cosmic calamity on Dec. 21, 2012 when the fast-reversing poles of the earth fall into alignment with the midline of the Milky Way. And when we wake up in the usual world on Dec. 22, we will Praise the Lord and love our Blessed Mother even more and thank heroic Michael Brown for saving us all and the entire Milky Way with the wonderful prayers he and the saints and mystics provided us to avert this cosmic disaster and to save our grandchildren for a Blessed future, so they can grow up to be on fire Sprit-filled Catholics with tons of vocations, who can convert the entire universe to Jesus and our Beloved Faith.

  5. Don’t forget THE STATUE TOUCHER: This particular strain of the LOLz makes her way around the periphery of the church and even certain areas up to and including the sanctuary – in other words, any place at all where there is a visible statue of any saint or even an icon or photograph of a saint, Our Lord or Our Lady, or the Holy Family – to leave her mark. Her routine is always the same – she makes her silent rounds praying in front of each work of art and, to be sure that the saint knows it is she who is asking intercession, touches his/her foot or hand or any reachable part, thereby causing a shiny or dull devotional mark (depending on the material) that the maintenance man makes worse by cleaning. (Think of a dog marking its territory.) She will inevitably light a candle (St. Jude) or leave a flower (St. Therese) along the way as well, and will NEVER miss one (especially St. Gerard). When time permits, she will also replace the missalettes and response cards to their proper positions. It is this certain member of the LOLz who collects all those stray golf pencils so small children cannot poke their eyes out. All this AFTER her Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I just love her. Her prayers are REAL. No messin’ with her.

  6. This whole thing was pretty snarky. If it weren’t for the prayers of all the little old ladies (beginning with my grandmother), I wouldn’t have a chance at ever becoming a little old priest (which is what I aspire to these days). Of course, among the members of our church are some men and women with odd ideas, but they are a tiny minority.

    • Is snark a bad thing? Most of what I wrote was intended as amusing compliments for the lovable idiosyncrasies of elderly Catholic women. Sure, there’s a bit of jest, but an older woman or two has replied with a hoot. I think a great lightening up is in order, with all due respect.

  7. At the age of 87, I expect I will be one of your LOLz one of these days….but right now, I think you are trying too hard to be funny…

  8. Micah, this is hilarious! Good stuff.