We in the Southland are experiencing a bit of a heat wave . . . okay, the thermometer at the bank building in the neighborhood read 105 degrees as I drove to my church for some time in the confessional. My church is not air-conditioned and if you were to say it was as hot as an oven in there, then as you can imagine, the confessional was more like a smaller convection oven, turned on high.
But - offer it up to God. One thing that has helped me with extremes in temperatures is to accept the fact that it's summer and you're gonna be hot.
It reminds me of my days at summer camp, which were spent at Camp Marydell, an all-girl's, Catholic "sleep away" camp run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine. Alas, I see that they have turned the camp into the "Marydell Faith & Light Center" and the sisters have adopted the more modern spirituality of many modern-day orders (egad, I see a picture on their web site of a nun leading liturgical dance, which is always a bad sign).
But when I went there as a wee gurrrrl from the Bronx, the nuns still wore their habits and were led, at the camp, by the saintly Sr. Michael. She stood - at best - about 5'1" and was convinced that there were no bad girls, just some of us needed a little extra prayer. What a sweetheart, she was, and we all loved her. She was the one who stirred in me the thoughts of taking the veil, as so many Catholic school girls do (along with Sr. Andrew Marie of the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne but I'll post a tribute to "Andy" at a later time). If any former Marydell girls come across this blog - quick! What is the recipe for Eggs a la Michael? What color was your cap? And did you ever win "Camp Spirit?"
Sr. Michael had some odd ideas, though, about how to keep us girls cool in the summer. The camp was located at the base of Hook Mountain in Nyack, NY, along the banks of the Hudson River, but even there the heat and humidity took its toll. Which is why Sr. Michael insisted we be served hot Cream of Wheat for breakfast. I remember her telling me that by eating foods that were hotter than the temperature outside, I'd feel cooler inside. Right. Love ya, sister, but I never bought that one.
One thing that the good nuns did tell us was that we could always expect August 10th to be the hottest day of summer. I suspect some of you are already smiling knowingly, but it is because it's the feast day of St. Lawrence, Martyr. Of course. The sisters regaled us wide-eyed innocents around the campfire with the tale of his martyrdom, how he was slowly roasted to death, but had the good humor to tell his tormentors, "Turn me over - I'm done on this side!" Wow! Who needs ghost stories when Butler's Lives of the Saints provided such great tales? The sisters would solemnly tell us to remember St. Lawrence the next time we were feeling warmish and wishing we were back in our air-conditioned apartments along the Grand Concourse or in Park Slope or Long Island City.
Right now, firefighters are battling wildfires out in San Benardino and Riverside counties here in Southern California. We don't fear earthquakes, but when the brush starts to burn, we start to worry. Remember those brave men and women in your prayers.
St. Lawrence, let those who fight the inferno to protect the lives of others, receive your prayers, that they can witness the blaze and keep a sense of levity, because with that hope and resolve is preserved. Pray for them and their families, that they may come home safely, and pray for those who are affected by the wildfires. We ask this in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.