On How We Don’t Have to Put Up With Bad Behavior

She came every month with a copy of the mailed newsletter in her hand, marked up with red ink. The office admin answered the door graciously every month, as she had been doing since before I arrived. She took the bloodied copy, said thank you, and put it on her desk, slumping down in her chair.

“Who was that?” I asked. I’d caught a glimpse of the woman out the window, and had never seen them before.

“Oh,” the admin said, “she comes every month to show me all the mistakes in the newsletter. She doesn’t go here anymore, but she used to I guess. She stopped coming because she said it’s too hard for her to get here…”

“But she can get here to critique the newsletter monthly? That makes no sense,” I said, shaking my head.

I looked at the copy. The editorial corrections she was suggesting (demanding?) were from an outdated form of writing, anyway. Her edits weren’t actual edits, just grammatical preferences.

“Why do we allow this?” I asked, honestly. “This is just bad behavior.”

A month went by, and one day I saw the car drive up. The woman stepped out, ink dripped copy in her hand. The admin sighed and got ready to head down to answer the door. “Let’s go together,” I said.

I opened the door before she rang, and she looked at me, surprised. “You must be the new guy,” she said, smirking at me.

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” I said extending my hand. “No, you won’t see me on Sundays. But I know the newsletter has a lot of issues and people care about that sort of thing, so I still edit it for you so, you know, you can see your mistakes.”

She held out the document.

“No thank you,” I said. “We don’t need you to edit it anymore.”

“You know,” she went on, “I used to be an editor for this church’s newsletter…”

“When was that?” I asked.

“I left in 1982,” she said.

“That’s a while ago. Why did you stop?” I asked, genuinely interested.

“I got mad,” she said with a smile, “you know how these things go…”

“I do,” I said, “which is why I’m not interested in letting it go on. You’re welcome here any time. But we won’t be accepting any more of your newsletter edits. Please do not show up here with this kind of thing ever again.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“I bet you have a family, don’t you?” she said with a smirk. “When you go home tonight, you tell your wife that today you met a WOW.”

“A WOW?” I repeated.

“Yes. A Wicked Old Woman,” she said, turning and walking back to her idling sedan.

She drove off. We never saw her again.

And we were better for it.

Popular Recluse

Today the church remembers the first official canonized saint of the Americas: Saint Rosa of Lima, Eccentric, Vegetarian, and Caretaker of the Sick.

Born Isabel Flores de Olivia, Saint Rosa’s name came from one of her nannies who claimed to have had a vision where Isabel’s little face bloomed into a rose. They started calling her Rosie and, well, as many childhood nicknames do, it stuck. Her family was wealthy for one born in the late 16th Century in a far flung colony, and she had many siblings. When she was Confirmed in 1597 she officially took the name Rosa as her new name, and then her real work began.

Rosa was strong-willed. It seemed whatever someone else wanted her to do, she did the opposite. Suitors started to admire her beauty, so she cut her hair and rubbed spices on her face to make it break out. She started to fast three times a week, despite her wealthy family wanting her to have a full figure. She took a vow of virginity, despite her parents wanting her to marry.

She was her own woman, and knew what she wanted out of life: to give herself away.

In the quiet hours of the night she would go and find sick people on the streets, bringing them back to her room to care for them. She refused to eat meat noting that it caused harm, and instead had a crown of silver created with spikes on the inside for her to wear, mirroring the crown of thorns. She took the sacrament daily, and only slept two hours a night, devoting the rest of her time to prayer and service. She sold flowers and embroidered pieces of art (she is also the Patron Saint of Embroidery!) to help her family survive, but gave most of the monies away to the poor.

Eventually her behavior caused her to shy away from the larger world, and she functionally became a recluse.

Despite her eccentricities, her parents never allowed her to join a religious order, though she desperately wanted this for her life. Instead she took what is known as “tertiary vows,” living the life of a monastic without the formal orders, following the way of Saint Dominic in seclusion.

She was known to have visions and dream dreams, and in fits and spurts would relate these to the church.

Saint Rosa of Lima died at the age of 31 on this day in 1617. She is the Patron Saint of Lima, and her likeness can still be found on their currency. Despite her reclusiveness, she was well known, respected, and loved, especially because she was known for giving of herself and her wealth for those who had nothing. At her funeral everyone, and I mean everyone who was anyone, attended to give homage to her self-giving love.

Saint Rosa is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes people know what they want out of this life from an early age and, despite the stereotypes, young people want to give of themselves for others.

And we can let that happen, by God.

-historical bits from public sources

-icon written by Theophilia