Day 7: Following Signs, Omens and Portents; A Practical Guide for the Clueless.

I was filled with sadness heading out this morning. My eyes were burning. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my kids, Colin and Hannah, and Hannah’s husband Bill. They live so far away. I’d already been feeling sad what with the recent bomb in Manchester and the sudden death of a friend back home. But it’s time to leave.
This is the part of my journey that I’m leaving up to divine providence, so I have no destination in mind. I hope to be guided in my choice of direction by clear omens, hunches and uncertain feelings of certainty. However, it’s one thing to trust that the old signs and portents will appear and it’s another to find oneself stuck at an intersection in the middle of Anywhere, USA and having no clear inclination, or even funny feeling as to which way to go.
In one of my novels, Hope Bats Last, I address just such a possibility and come up with this guidance for the protagonist:
Always head away from bad weather, unless some omen tells me otherwise. When I don’t know which way to go, go left and then right the next time, and then left… If I must choose between two towns and can’t, choose the one that starts with the earliest letter in the alphabet. Trust the journey.
I’ve added a few since:
Don’t book any motels in advance because you don’t know where you’re going.
When you have a choice of motels and feel no preference, choose the one with a number in its name. If there’s more that one, pick the motel with the highest number. If there are no numbers pick the one whose name comes first alphabetically.
Talk to anyone who wants to talk with you for as long as they want to talk.
Don’t avoid homeless people; they could be Elijah the prophet in disguise.
If someone mentions a place I should visit, I must go there.
If I have a funny feeling about something, I should listen to it.
What can go wrong?

The Patron Saint of Motorcycle Riders?

The Patron Saint of Motorcycle Riders?

 Who should be the patron saint of motorcyclists?There are a lot of saints in the race for this honor!

 We can start with Elijah the Prophet who was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Although a friend of mine says Elijah was taken up in Triumph! (Maybe a Triumph Trident!) Regardless, they didn’t have Harleys in those days so he had to settle for something else. But I can still picture the dude doing this! Can you? Now imagine him on a CVO Harley Road King screaming with locomotive type clout in top gear.

Another candidate is Saint Frances of Rome who was declared the patron saint of automobile drivers by Pius XI.  There was a legend that an angel used to light her way with a lantern when she traveled, keeping her safe from hazards like deer and pagans. I’m pretty sure the angel used the Hiawatha headlight from the Road King to accomplish this task. Harley Davidson themselves state: “the Harley Road King headlamp hearkens back to the Big Twins of the 60s. You get nothing less than the latest in materials and technology. Clear-lens reflector optics provide a longer distance high beam and wider low beam to light up your” …touring experience. “It’s a bright, striking daytime lamp that blasts a little further into the night.” You need a bright light on those pesky Roman roads at night.

 St Christopher was popular when I was a kid. I remember my Uncle Terence had a St Christopher medal. He was supposed to bring protection to travelers; that’s Christopher, not my uncle. I like Christopher. It’s interesting that his original name was Reprobus, which meant rejected or outcast. Sounds like a Harley rider. Apparently he was tall, strong, ugly and ambitious. The girls around the Canaan bars, a town the size of El Reno, Oklahoma, laughed at him and the guys were always trying to pick fights with the big guy. Reprobus went searching for the King of kings, and spent some time with the Devil (probably a Honda dealer). But he ended up finding Christ, who appeared as a child to him. He carried Christ across a dangerous river, without the help of any flotation device. After this Reprobus’ name was changed to Christopher, which means Christ bearer.

But in 1969 they had the reform of the Roman calendar and decided they just weren’t too sure about the veracity of the stories about Saint Christopher and demoted him somewhat.

Still he is a widely popular multi-talented saint who’s apparently also revered by athletes, mariners, ferrymen, all travelers-protecting them better than Allstate insurance against lightning and pestilence. He’s also popular with archers, bachelors (??) boatmen, soldiers, bookbinders, folks with epilepsy, fruit dealers, gardeners,  surfers, and, believe it or not, people suffering from toothache. That’s one multipurpose saint! Surely he should be in the running for the patron saint of motorcycles?

 Another nomination for the honor goes to Sebastian de Aparicio y del Pardo. A Mexican road builder in the 1500’s he was considered one of the first Mexican “cowboys” or “charros”. I know, he’s sounding really good. He went into the transportation business and helped build over 600 miles of roads in Mexico. Then he gave all his money away, became a friar and he traveled these highways as an itinerant beggar, monk and peripatetic teacher. He drove a two oxen powered cart (Maybe 50cc’s) and lived on the road for days, sleeping on the ground under his cart in bad weather. Though he never got much out of second gear people loved him for his simplicity and Christ-like ways. Apparently, he always said: Guárdeos Dios, hermanos! (May God keep you, brothers!). If that ain’t a Harley salute I don’t know what is.

Okay, the final contestant for the honor of Patron Saint of Motorcyclists is (cue the trumpets!)  St. Columbanus of Bobbio. Despite the Italian ‘Bobbio’, this guy was an Irish dude! What a surprise! (You knew I had to sneak Celtic Christianity in here somewhere!) During the dark ages when the Irish were saving civilization and Christianity he ventured away from Ireland wandering up and down Europe in the sixth and seventh centuries, starting monasteries and spreading the word about Christ.

But who was this man? How do we know he was Irish? Apparently what cinches it is that that we know he lived at home with his mother into his 30’s, he wasn’t married, and he didn’t have a job. Ha ha!

Unusually, he was tall and good looking and the girls chased him (I can relate to that except for the tall bit, and the good looking part and…). He was also a bit of a rogue, as they say. A holy woman put the fear of God in him and he decided to change his ways. When he decided to become a priest his mother tried to block the door physically with her body, but he just stepped over her, signed up and got his traveling orders. He traveled throughout Europe to Germany and Switzerland and ended up living in decadent France for 20 years, establishing three monasteries there before he moved to Italy. He carried his Celtic Christian ideas and practices with him and was always riling up “the Man” (the Popes and Bishops).

He lived in a cave for years, was very pious and is said to have wrestled a bear. But unlike Davy Crockett he didn’t kill it; instead he tamed it and yoked it to a plow.

He is quoted as having said, “Love is not orderly.” You gotta love this guy!

Miracles credited to Columbanus include:

Once after being surrounded by wolves, he simply walked through them

When he needed a cave for his solitary prayers and a bear lived there he asked politely for the bear to skedaddle and he did.  

When the Luxeuil Abbey granary ran empty, Columbanus prayed over it and it refilled.

He cured several sick monks and gave sight to a blind man at Orleans

But my favorite is that he multiplied bread and beer for his community. We’re talking about craft, micro-brewed beer here! Bikers love their happy, hoppy beer!

If Columbanus were alive today I imagine him riding a Harley Fat Boy. The Fat Boy is a living legend. Arnold Schwarzenegger rode one in ”Terminator 2”. It’s got a 1,584cc pushrod V-twin engine, six gears, massive torque and you’ve got to love those shotgun-style tailpipes. It’s nimble, has no saddlebags and is perfect for itinerant monks flying around on those twisty heathen roads in Europe. Combine all this with Christianity and you can’t be beat! Love and a Fat Boy can conquer all!  

 And the winner is?!

 Well it’s really up to you to choose your saint, from among these or others.

But I will tell you though that the Vatican has endorsed the Irish saint Columbanus as the official Patron Saint of Motorcyclists! And, another supreme authority, the Harley Davidson company has produced a medal recognizing St. Columbanus as the Patron Saint of Motorcyclists. What more authoritative endorsements could you ask for?  

Monk Jonas wrote about Columbanus in the seventh century

 A while after, Columbanus went to the monastery of Fontaines and found sixty brethren hoeing the ground and preparing the fields for the future crop. When he saw them breaking up the clods with great labor, he said, “May the Lord prepare for you a feast, my brethren.” Hearing this the attendant said, “Father, believe me, we have only two loaves and a very little beer.” Columbanus answered, “Go and bring those.” The attendant went quickly and brought the two loaves and a little beer. Columbanus, raising his eyes to heaven, said, “Christ Jesus, only hope of the world, do Thou, who from five loaves satisfied five thousand men in the wilderness, multiply these loaves and this drink.” Wonderful faith! All were satisfied and each one drank as much as he wished. The servant carried back twice as much in fragments and twice the amount of drink. And so he knew that faith is more deserving of the divine gifts than despair, which is wont to diminish even what one has.

His Feast day is the 23rd November

May he always help us keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.