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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Boniface, full of grace

The saintly poems are still coming in. Our latest entry is St. Boniface for a parking space.

"Boniface, Boniface, help me find a parking space."

The problem here is how one pronounces 'Boniface'. In my home town we have a St. Boniface parish and everyone there (in the Midwest) pronounces his name "Bon- a -fuss". That makes the prayer not work out at all. One of our readers suggests that in that case he would be helpful in making the bus come more quickly.

"Bon a fuss, Bon a fuss, hurry up and send a bus."

I suppose.

I question what in the world St. Boniface, the inventor of the Christmas tree, has to do with parking or buses. We could maybe decide on Pope St. Boniface. I believe he got booted out of Rome for a while and was eventually reinstated....parked.

It's a stretch.

Our St. Boniface parish is based on the German saint, or saint to the Germans. The town I grew up in is so German that it doesn't matter if you aren't German. If you live there you are German by osmosis, you will squeegee the lawn, you will scrub your sidewalks and you will save the twist ties off the bread wrappers in the butter tubs that you've also saved. It makes sense we'd have a St. Boniface parish.

St. Boniface converted the Germans by cutting down Thor's Tree. I'm sure when he did it the German's sucked all the oxygen out of the sky to hold their breath as they waited for Thor's wrath to strike Boniface down. Of course, there is no Thor, so nothing happened and the German's converted. It seems that Boniface continued cutting down pagan trees of note throughout his career and somewhere in there invented the Christmas tree out of them.

Calm down. We know many people used the evergreen as a winter symbol of life and hope for hundreds of years before that, blah, blah, blah.....Boniface was the first to actually make a Christmas tree out of it.

But there just is no parking in there. Oh well, if St. Boniface works for you, who am I to judge?

I have to draw the line on the Mary parking prayer, though.

"Hail Mary, full of grace, help me find a parking space."


The Hail Mary is too old, too beautiful a prayer to be parodied into a parking couplet.

I remember reading about the history of the prayer. It was quite a while ago so I'm doing this from memory. Here goes.

The first part of the prayer, of course, is from the New Testament. "Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with Thee" are the words of the archangel Gabriel when he came to ask Mary to have Jesus.

"Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" are the words of Aunt Elizabeth to Mary when she came to visit. Aunt Elizabeth was pregnant with Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist. Of course, he wasn't John the Baptist then. He was just cousin John. Soon to be cousin John.

So that was the whole prayer for quite some time. Eventually "Jesus" was added to the end of it. "The fruit of thy womb, Jesus" , that way no one is confused.

And that was all there was to it until the 4th century (I think) when there was big fat heresy that maybe Jesus wasn't divine, or maybe he wasn't born divine, but sort of grew into his divinity. There was a big fight over this silly notion and when the truth won out the happy people took the streets shouting, "Holy Mary, Mother of God!" which they could now say with impunity. What a day that must have been.

So that was the whole prayer.

But then....after all of that....and as long as you have her attention...you may as well ask for something..... sooo.....

"Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."


So we know we're done.

And that's how we got the "Hail Mary". The rosary, yes. Parking?



Fouquette Racing said...

Help! I am trying to teach my 4 year old to pray before bed time but the standard "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep..."one freaks him out becuase of the "if I Die" part. Can you recommend a new one?

Michelle said...

fouquette racing, start with the Our Father and when mastered add the Hail Mary, then the Glory Be, then the Angel of God, then the St. Michael the Archangel. It'll impress the grandparents if they have an opportunity to participate in bedtimes prayers. My family does this every night and my 5 year old knows all these prayers by heart. It just takes a bit of time.

As for prayers to saints...I believe the Little Flower used to offer up her annoyance at a fellow nun who was overly zealous in doing laundry and would splash water on Sister Therese. She'd be a good one to help you get a new washer:

O Holy Little Flower, on you I must lean,
Our washer is broken, we need a new machine!

Bill said...

I think you either have to be an RC or an ex-RC to see the real humor in this. I remember when I was a kid at Sunday mass singing "We three kings of orient are, mighty fond of white owl cigars" and then getting smacked by the nun sitting behind me. Part of being sane is being able to laugh at the human condition. Even in the Nazi concentration camps they kept their "human identity" by making insider jokes at their own plight.

Sister Mary Martha said...

I thought the Three Kings tried to smoke a rubber cigar. It was loaded it exploded.

We two kings...

My favorite bedtime prayer is the prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help,

"Remember o most gracious Virgin Mary, that ever was it known, that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored they help or sought thy intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly to thee o virgin of virgins, my mother.

To thee I come before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. Despise not my petition, but in thy mercy hear, and answer me. Amen.

There is a version of "Now I lay me down to sleep" that doesn't have death in it.

The Hail Mary has death in it.

cattiekit said...

Our parish is St. Helen's. We all know what *she's* all about. (big toothy grin)

I wondered about St. Boniface as an expediter of parking, too. But I was loath to show my ignorance. Though I *did*. (small embarrassed grin)

You saved me a trip to Google-land. :>D

As for the Hail Mary intercession for parking grace, as my husband (childhood Baptist and lifelong Nice Guy) would say, "BLAZZZZZ-fee-mee!"

Though I'm not sure that taking a Hail Mary in a comic vein like that really rises to the occasion of blasphemy.

I'm not sure that Baptists really understand the concept of blasphemy, either.

So much misunderstanding. So little time. ;>)

The Big Seester said...


I learned a slightly more respectful version of the St. Anthony rhyme: St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something's lost and must be found.

Much more polite than calling him Tony.

It usually works too.

I recently had a mini-discussion on my blog about the history of the "St. Joseph Home Selling Kit" and how in the Middle Ages, they had no respect for him, because he got cuckolded by God. (Personally, if you're going to get cuckolded, God would be the best option, I think.)

Your blog always makes me smile.

The Big Seester

CMinor said...

The Golden Treasury of Prayers from Around the World has this bedtime prayer:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
bless the bed that I lie on.
Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head;
One to watch and one to pray,
And two to bear my soul away.

On second thought, that one might freak out the kiddies, too.

Apologies if the Mary parking prayer annoyed anyone. I didn't write it, honest!

Sister Mary Martha said...

Yes, that last line needs work. How hard can that be?

Let's see

and two to change a light bulb..wait, that doesn't ryhme.

Unknown said...

Fouquette Racing, Here's another...

Dear God I thank you for this day,
For all your gifts, for work for play. Forgive the things that I did wrong and make my heart grow pure and strong. Show all the world your love and light and let us rest in peace this night.

We then pray to our guardian angels.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Technically, Debbie, we ask our guardian angels to pray for us...we don't pray TO them.

That would be bad.

Unknown said...

Hmmmm. Thank you for your response, Sister! I admit to being confused. When I recite the "Angel of God, my guardian dear..." prayer, by addressing my angel, aren't I praying to him? Now, I realize anything he does for me, i.e., lighting, guarding, ruling, and guiding, is in accord with God's will. But, I think of praying as petitioning, asking, begging. In this sense, can I not "pray" TO my guardian angel? I'm a stickler for verbage and correctness, so any help you can give my understanding of this would be greatly appreciated!

wwjdfkb said...

.." and two to keep the monsters at bay."

i am an obsessed woman, I must admit. Mother Cabrini founded the order, MSC's, that founded my college(aptly named Cabrini College).
I'm a little partial to "Mother Cabrini, Mother Cabrini, find me a spot for my big machiney!"

the key to each of these limericks is the double repetition of the name. You really must entice this saint to help you, you need to make it known in the after world that you are calling on this blessed person, and that they are pretty special to whatever your cause is!

Fouquette~don't forget special intentions. say a traditional prayer but don't forget to remember the intentions of the child. even if s/he is worreid about a pet, it's ok to leave that at the feet of the almighty!

Anonymous said...

wwjdfkb - HAHAHAHAHA! love that rewrite.

Fouquette Racing said...

Thanks everyone for all the prayer ideas! I really love this blog :-)

Anonymous said...

I learned from my parents:

Now I lay me down to sleep
Pray the Lord my soul to keep;
Thy love guard me thru the night
and wake me up with the morning light

Jane C

elena maria vidal said...

What about:

"Little Jesus, Lost and Found,
Bring my (whatever is lost) around.Amen." Great for very young children. Very young....

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister,
Oh so many moons ago, in the late '50's the Jebbies taught us that the last line "Pray for us now, and the hour of our death, Amen." resulted in being added on when so much of Europe was decimated by the bubonic plague. Yes? No? Folklore? I do like this explanation, though.This seems to round it out. With the bells tolling, and the carts picking up the dead, the people would have gotten great comfort, from this addition, I think.
So glad I found this blog-journal-diary.
I laugh, but it does help re-direct my spiritual side. So, it is my near occasion of grace.
Barbara in Omaha

Anonymous said...

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord, my soul to keep.
Angels guard me through the night,
and wake me with the morning light.

This is the version I taught my children.

Also, my mother taught us to pray
Dear Saint Anthony come around,
something's lost and can't be found.
I can't tell you how many time's I have prayed this prayer for non-Catholics who have lost something and St. Anthony never lets me down. I think of it as a way of evangelizing.

Sister, thank you for your blog. I love it.

SrM&M said...

Looking for an old prayer my grandmother taught me something like this: Little Jesus, lost and found; then something about everyone who is lost, let You (Jesus) find him. . . God Bless.

Anonymous said...

My beloved late cousin, Sister Marie, a Notre Dame nun, used to pray for a parking space in downtown DC by quietly murmuring "Mary Parking Mary". No blasphemy from her, I promise. I have to comment that it worked amazingly.

Also, for the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep prayer - I used a changed version for my children, years ago:
Now I lay me down to sleep
Pray the Lord my soul to keep
Angels guard me through the night
And wake me with the morning light.