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In this column, a few weeks ago, we discussed friggatriskaidekaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th. We also touched on superstitions and other seemingly irrational habits that people live their life by.
As a sports fan, I know many ballplayers are superstitious about what they eat before a game or make sure they wear the same underwear when on a hot streak. Often, I’ll sit in the same chair while the Mets are doing well and conversely, if things aren’t working out, I’ll go into a different room and watch on another TV.
Ridiculous, you say?
Well, that’s exactly what my mother thought.
While at my house after dinner the other day, we were sitting in the kitchen watching the Mets game. The Mets were in the middle of a big inning and had already scored two runs and still had the bases loaded when the Nationals changed their pitcher. I mentioned that I had to go to the bathroom, but I couldn’t leave just yet.
“Why not,” she said innocently.
When I told her I didn’t want to jinx the Mets, she said, “Are you crazy? Go to the bathroom. The game will still be here when you get back.”
So, I left. By the time I got back, the inning was over and the Mets had failed to score any more runs.
“I told you,” I said.
“I don’t believe in any of that,” she said. “I only believe in The Sacred Heart and Saint Anthony.”
Whenever she loses something important, she prays to Saint Anthony, the Patron Saint of lost items. Out of the 10,000 or so people identified as Saints since the Apostles’ days, somehow Saint Anthony of Padua got the job of helping find lost items. Back in the 12th Century, Anthony had a book of Psalms that was missing and presumed stolen. Not sure who he prayed to, but the book was returned to him after saying a prayer. Because of that, he got the gig.
After my mother lost her Life Alert pendant a few months ago, she spent a few days searching without any luck. She prayed to Saint Anthony and found it later in the day. Recently, she misplaced the same pendant. This time she went right to Saint Anthony that night but still had no luck.
“Maybe he put you at the bottom of the list,” I told her, “Because he already helped you find it once before?”
Sure enough, she found it the following afternoon. Apparently, you can’t joke about Saint Anthony.
“Laugh if you want about my beliefs,” she told me, “But The Sacred Heart saved your life.”
“When you were three, you had a fever of 104”, she told me. “If your fever didn’t subside, the doctor told me I’d have to bring you to the hospital. I was sitting in the kitchen crying when our landlady called me to tell me something came for me in the mail.
“I opened a small cardboard tube from a charity. Back then, I never donated money to charities. It contained a picture of The Sacred Heart. I put my hand over the heart and said a prayer. The next thing I knew, you were awake and your temperature had dropped to 101. That picture of The Sacred Heart has been on my bedroom wall ever since.”
To be honest, I don’t see much difference between religious beliefs and superstitions. I’ve had enough instances in my life where when following seemingly irrational superstitions have worked out. Of course, they don’t work all the time, no matter how deep your beliefs are. Why would believing in prayer be any different than believing in a lucky chair?
“When I’m gone,” she told me, “I don’t care what you do with anything else. I just want you to keep that picture of The Sacred Heart.”
You know what? There’s no reason not to