St. Jude: Patron Saint of Chaos and Impossible Causes

I’m in Hawaii, sitting next to an olive-green painted stucco wall on the concrete deck of the Kona Brewing Company drinking a half Lavaman Lager / half Hula Hefeweizen overlooking a Chevron gas station. The ocean is on the other side of the highway somewhere — probably — and my beer is nearly gone, very warm, and totally flat. Still delicious, though, because low standards for the win!

I don’t know why it always feels important to tell you where I am when I write to you. Maybe because I’m always asking myself that question both literally and figuratively; where the hell am I? Am I where I want to be? Where I meant to be? Is where I am OK anyway, even if I’ve veered off track or didn’t have a well-mapped plan?

We’re here on Oahu dropping our oldest baby off for college which is impossible to believe and still true, and, from the articles I see online, I notice I’m supposed to be doing things I haven’t done — like prepare for drop-off day with a measuring tape and garbage bags and a tool kit — and feeling things strongly instead of not being able to make sense of my feelings at all. I see I’m supposed to want to make her bed and unpack her stuff and we’re supposed to argue about that — her staking out her turf and me trying to “help” without asking how — and I wonder whether this is another Mom Thing I’m Doing Wrong because I have no real need to do any of those things, nor to wash her new sheets or worry whether she’ll do well in this new life. I don’t know whether I’m cocky, but I feel like I already know; she’ll do well in this new life and she won’t, like all of the humans throughout history — happy and well-adjusted, and also struggling and wondering where she fits. Where the hell is she, anyway? Is she where she wants to be? Where she meant to be? Is this place OK, even if she veers off track or doesn’t have a well-mapped plan?

This is a strange season, and I know that’s not true just for me or for our family. This is a Strange Season, friends.

  • Our kids are getting older and the Parenting Game changes its rules constantly these days. We practice flexibility like it’s our profession, the way doctors practice medicine; years of study, followed by internship, followed by residency which nearly kills us with its dangerous lack of sleep, followed by either actively working or being on call 24/7. Relentless, right? Relentless.
  • Our church denomination is trying to decide whether there’s room for LGBTQ people at the table, and we had more meetings this summer with no decisions again, which were agonizing to everyone and which make all of us on all the sides wonder whether there’s a place for us here.
  • Our oldest boy-child is suffering. We’re seeking more help for him (always), and we don’t know if we’re doing enough (also always).
  • And our U.S. presidential election … just… what the holy ever-loving fuck, friends?? I know I should put that differently, but OH DEAR GOD, HELP US, and, honestly, given the number of times I’ve prayed using the words “what the ever-loving fuck,” I trust Jesus to know that’s a sincere prayer.

This is just a Really Strange Season, is my point. Very Strange. Exceedingly Strange. Like standing on shifting sand. Or on what we thought was solid ground which turns out to be a thin crust of earth on top of a giant sinkhole that gives way so we freefall in perpetuity like Alice headed to Wonderland. DUDE; where the hell am I? Am I where I want to be? Where I meant to be? Is where I am OK anyway, even if I’ve veered off track or didn’t have a well-mapped plan or am in utter freefall??

In recent years, I’ve claimed St. Jude as my family’s patron saint. He is, after all, the patron saint of Chaos and Impossible Causes and Things Almost Despaired Of. I could think of no better fit. We’re not Catholic, except in the sense that we believe in a Universal Church that unifies, rather than divides, us. And I had no theology of saints or sainthood except to notice that American Protestants reject them as idols. So I have no idea how many good Christian people I’m offending in claiming a patron saint for our family, but I find that with age I’m less and less inclined to pay attention to who’s being offended and more inclined to pay attention to the things which seem Deeply True and lead me to Love God, who’s other name is Love, and Love My Neighbors As Myself. The saints, it turns out, aren’t idols but advocates who intercede with God on our behalf, and, while I can why see this is offensive to protestants, believing, as we do, that we need no intercessor between ourselves and Love since that’s what Jesus (aka, Love Incarnate) came specifically to change, I find the concept not at all offensive that may dialogue directly with Love and ask a saint to intercede alongside me.

In other words, I’m probably mucking it all up.

No doubt, the Catholics and the Protestants are both dismayed at this point.

Nevertheless, I’ve claimed St. Jude for our own.

Patron Saint of Chaos and Impossible Causes and Woolseys and Things Nearly Dispaired Of.

And so I’ve searched and searched for quite some time to find a pendant of St. Jude to wear around my neck and remind me that in the midst of all the mess and madness it’s OK to ask Love for help.

In the midst of the chaos and splendor, it’s OK to ask Love to hold my hand.

In the midst of impossible darkness, when I can no longer pray on my own because I have no words left and despair has nearly overtaken me, I can hand my prayer to another who will bear them on my behalf.

I found my pendant, finally, in a stall in the middle of a market in Mexico, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t know whether I believe St. Jude is real. It matters that he might be. And it matters that there’s a symbol for carrying what’s impossible and jumbled and full of despair to a Love that’s bigger than us all.

IMG_1309I found my pendant, finally, and I snapped it up along with 4 more for you, though I wish I could’ve bought EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US a pendant and a necklace to put it on and a respite trip to Mexico with sun and sand and sympathy, which, FOR THE LOVE, we all need. Still, like I keep reminding myself, I did what I could when I could do it, and, at the time, it was buying 5 pendants — one for me and 4 for 4 of you — in the hope you’ll know to the depth of your bones I meant them for all of us, with our prayers sent on St. Jude’s wings regardless of who hangs the metal around his/her neck.

Friends, if you’d like one of the pendants, I’ll do a drawing eventually, picking randomly from the comments on this post using a random number generator. In the meantime, I’m praying, along with St. Jude, that Love will attend us during the Strange Season, and befriend us in the Chaos, and make our Impossible Causes possible, and lend us some of what it takes to not despair.

With love to every one of you,

SignatureIMG_1308

P.P.S. Here — FINALLY (now that it’s DECEMBER) — are the four winners of the St. Jude pendants, chosen by the Random Number Generator:

  1. Stefanie who wrote: “I could not agree more Beth! Dear GOD “what the ever-loving fuck,” and please intervene for the sake of us all! Prayers to you and your children during this season, and all others. Thank you for keeping it mucky and messy. xoxox”
  2. Kathy who wrote: “Beth, you have a better understanding of Saints than many Catholics do! Saints with a capital S are canonized, officially deemed to be holy. But like one reader said, they were regular human beings, who screwed up a lot, and just kept trying. Like all of us. We are all called to be saints with a little s, when we die and meet the Divine, who is Love. I just got my Masters in Theology from a Cathloic University, and when someone asks me what I have learned, I say this: “God is Love.” I like your personal theology and philosophy. And, well, just love you. Your stories and honesty are inspiring and oh so real.”
  3. Ellen Murphy who wrote: “Upon reading this post, I thought that as a mother of three loud boys, all born in a span of 3 years and 10 months that St. Jude should be my family’s patron saint as well. Then I read the comments and random number generator be damned the mother of 5 with the refrigerated kindle needs this medal. As a Baptist in Texas, I would approach the St. Jude medal in a similar way- it could be true and it seems helpful, asking for St. Jude’s prayer is probably the spiritual version of people asking for a selfie with a celebrity. I hope you are basking in the tropical, exotic beauty of Hawaii while you are there.”
  4. Melissa D who wrote: “I, too, am in need of a patron saint of chaos, for myself and my family. Tomorrow I am supposed to be bringing oldest child back to college to begin her junior year. But she is sick – as in, got blood work for mono this morning sick – and her college is 3 hours away, so I am trying to do as much as I can to help her while she is still here for me to help. And hubby is in search of a cardiologist who takes our insurance and will do the procedure that he needs instead of only giving him meds and telling him to lose weight. And the house is a mess and the kids need school supplies and things like sneakers and underwear and I don’t know how I am going to take care of all of that. So, yes. I am all cool with asking St. Jude, to intercede for me and my family (and you and yours!) and to help me find my sanity, which I seem to have misplaced, and my floors, which I could swear were around here somewhere. PS. As someone who worships in a Catholic church, I also like to turn to Mary. One of the many names that the church has for her is “Mother of Perpetual Help”. I figure her life as a mom was pretty chaotic, and so she knows a thing or two about that. And I really do need “perpetual help”.”
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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
68 comments
  1. […] I sort of feel like is a present for all of us because it’s an icon of St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Chaos and Impossible Causes, and I can think of little more important right now, in the waning days of 2016, than the reminder […]

  2. Did you pick a Winner? Catholic Nurses taught me to pray to St. Jude when I would lose my “brain” which is our list of patients and daily to-do’s, aka assignment sheet. I Believe! And I’d love a pendant. Also, Mother Theresa just became a saint, so I guess I could start praying to her Too? Why not. I’ll try anything. Chip is well even though I start a new job tomorrow, I think it’s going to work out because one of us can come home for lunch….in case you care. ~Lotus

  3. “What the everloving fuck” sounds pretty sincere to me, too.

  4. […] 1 out of every 5 Woolsey children gives a poop about wearing clean, new clothes to school, and that one is already away at college and therefore theoretically capable of worrying about her own damn clothes this year. The rest of […]

  5. I too have been looking for a pendant of St. Jude. No not catholic but I too thought it would help in the deepest darkest moments that seem to come more each day. Try to enjoy Hawaii, but I guess leaving your baby there (great on her part) has to be one super hard thing to do. Mine is only in the 5th grade but I found out just a few days ago, that our school district is going to put 6th grade at the Jr. High next year. I was not ready to send my baby off to jr. high, nor do I believe it is the right thing to do for any 6th grader. Trying to make the right contacts but not even the superindendant will speak to me, well he might but his secratary won’t even let me leave a message.

  6. I need some St. Jude help too, for all the reasons in this season. Thanks.

  7. Waving to you from the dark of my childhood bedroom which I’m currently sharing with my 15 year old man child, whose alarms for his zero period class will start ringing shortly, my almost 10 year old daughter, who needs to be ready for car pool by 7:30, a chiweenie that can’t sleep without me and a crazy spastic cat that hates any kind of change. My hubby opted for the couch in the living room. The reason we are here tonight is because God decided to help answer my prayers of indecision about my current job by blowing a water main and flooding our house, the house I run my daycare out of and our family’s only current source of income. We are homeless and I’m jobless in the span of 15 min this evening. St Jude pray for us. ♡ Upside to having all of the households clean laundry in a giant pile on your bedroom floor, it helped soak up water and stopped the spread slightly.

  8. We too are dropping 2 kids off to college this fall. One this Thursday and another in a few weeks. Maybe I am going to freak out eventually, but right now I am excited for them to start a new experience. The only blip in my stress has been viewing dorm room ideas on pinterest with our girl. I am clearly not up to that kind of creativity!!! I am hoping to get them both dropped off with mostly clean laundry. That should shed some light on my understanding of your choice of St. Jude. I am Catholic by the way, and am in no way offended by the idea that we all have more in common than we do in opposition.
    I often read your blog and feel better after doing so. Thanks for shedding light on real lives!

  9. Our only child who is nearly 39 in early November is vacationing in Mexico for one week, no computer a phone lots of books she wants to read and a place that is all inclusive so she doesn’t have to go anywhere..I pray to st. jude every day and night for my baby doll who is nearly 39..she travels all over but I worry just the same..St. Jude has helped me enormously, losing my mom when I was young and the chaos of foster homes, a dad who took to drink, no one wanting to be nice and kind to 3 kids from the same family but I soldiered on..My Mom knew the names of all the saints, she particularly loved St. Jude..I have asked and gotten relief and resuce from St. Jude, I pass my thoughts on to others! Don’t give up your answer to anything will surely come it takes a while but it will come, I could go for Hawaii right now we are experiencing heat like no other near 90 tomorrow then 100 and 100 we have no a/c and the fans seem to just brush the heat into our body and souls, we do get to the mall and keep there and cool off..Just remember that this life is not heaven but more like a season and or seasons of hell and high waters, lots of pain but lots of love and gain of love from people..I will try to remember your name when I pray this evening to St. Jude believe you will have an answer to your situation(s) soon..aloha!

  10. “I find that with age I’m less and less inclined to pay attention to who’s being offended and more inclined to pay attention to the things which seem Deeply True and lead me to Love God, who’s other name is Love, and Love My Neighbors As Myself.” This statement sums up my current feelings about this wonky world more than you could ever know – thanks you!

  11. I could not agree more Beth! Dear GOD “what the ever-loving fuck,” and please intervene for the sake of us all!

    Prayers to you and your children during this season, and all others.

    Thank you for keeping it mucky and messy.

    xoxox

    1. Hey, look! It’s December and I’m FINALLY choosing winners! STEFANIE! You won! I’m sending you a message now… look for it in your inbox.
      Beth

  12. Strange season, indeed. For me, it is the season of almost-starting-a-family, a season I SHOULD be excited for, a season I AM excited for, except when I’m busy being terrified that I’ll fail miserably.

    Thank you for sharing the muck and the mess – your kiddos are proof that you are succeeding!

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