About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Lean and Mean

Wasn't there some comedy character who used to rant on about something, only to find that she had misunderstood some words. Someone would patiently explain that no one was asking for "Whirled peas" but rather "World Peace" and she would say, "Oh...never mind..."  Cut to me, a few posts back.

A reader patiently explains:"Meanest" in the original question meant "lowest, poorest, or most humble.


Never mind.

I thought I was the champion of archaic word use, thanks to my mother who would say things like "busier than a cranberry merchant" if someone was frantic or "gone to where the woodbine twineth" when someone died. I have had to explain quite a number of times that "woodbine" is tree roots and going to where the tree roots intertwine just means you're dead and buried.

Meanest. Yes, of course.  The lowest, poorest or most humble. When we're talking saints, it's a long, long list. St. Rosalia who was so low and humble that when she went off to live in a cave, no one noticed. St. Anthony, not the fella who finds your keys, but the original St. Anthony,  the hermit. The first hermit. He lived on the desert by himself and didn't eat much at all. I think he ate rocks.

I exaggerate.

Or how about an anchoress? You know, one of those holy people who lives in a shed and has food passed through a hole in the wall (infrequently, because they don't eat much, either) like they were Hannibal Lecter or something. But they weren't, of course, they were very holy people who others came to for advice and counsel. The room in which they lived was often attached to a church and had three windows. One that opened into the church so the person could receive Communion, one for food and one to talk to the people who came for advice. I don't know why the people who came for advice couldn't talk through the food window, but I'm willing to bet they really wanted three windows, because three is a great mystical number of balance (as in the Holy Trinity). Juliana of Norwich springs to mind. We don't even remember her by whatever her name was, because she lived on the back end of St. Julian's Church and that's why she's called Juliana. Pretty mean that one.

We certainly can't leave St. Francis of Assisi out of this discussion for showing the rest of us how it's done. He took Jesus' admonition to "take no shoes, take no purse (meaning "money" not a handbag or a sassy clutch) at His word. Francis begged for every morsel of food he ate and so did his Brothers. He had really nice clothes, Francis did, because his father was a cloth merchant. But Francis gave them away to a beggar and ran around in that brown thing that Franciscans still wear.

We might also call to mind St. Simon Stylites, who lived on top of a tall pole. Yes, he was on a pedestal, but it was a super humiliating way to life. He often stood on one foot and all his food had to be brought up to him in a basket on a rope. And without going into too much detail, there wasn't a bathroom up there. Very, very mean.

Then, just multiply by hundreds and hundreds of hermits who had followers and monks who founded whole monasteries and Francis who had many, many brothers. Nuns in cloisters, the list goes on.

I think they all fill the bill, living in sheds and caves and on poles, eating almost nothing, wearing clothes until they fall apart and getting other people to follow that plan for living They've gone to where the woodbine twineth, but their souls are most certainly in Heaven.


Kathy (not the other one) said...

I love St. Julian of Norwich. She was an anchoress in England during a time of plague, peasants revolts, and when they were burning of Lollards right next door to her church, and what did she counsel people? Not to worry, because God Himself had told her, "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well."

(By the way, Sister, my headaches are much better--not cured, but better. Thanks for the sympathy and the prayers and the suggestion of praying to St. Stephen and St. Joseph Arimathea though, to be honest, I think seeing the neurologist made is what really made the difference--which is why God gave us neurologists in the first place, isn't it? Though getting an appointment was the dickens, and they may have helped with that.)

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

"Busier than a cranberry merchant." My mother-in-law" used to say that -- a phrase I'd never heard before or since. Thanks for bringing back memories of her.

Anonymous said...

Looking back at the entire, original question, is seem the poster was asking about meanies, not the most humble. I can see why you took it that way.

Thank you for both answers.