Like all Catholics, he loves saints. The aforementioned Pope just swore in a whole new batch of them, 800 or so in number. The devotion of the Church to its saints makes critics of the faith sneer that it is not a monotheistic one at all, since a Catholic can pray to a saint or saints rather than address the Deity directly. In some ways it makes sense, however. Religions like Islam and Protestantism pray to God or Allah exclusively, but they also credit Him for being busy at all times in the wheelhouse of the Universe. If Catholics are confronted with a problem that could use a little otherworldly intervention, such as a cousin skipping bail, they can pray to God, but if they feel a little awkward about bothering the Big Guy about their loser relatives, they can ask for the intercession of St. James the Diffident, the patron saint of bail jumpers, instead.
My Catholic brother is devoted to images of the canonized. He decorates his room with crosses and saints (see above). He plants their images all about the property, plaster statues that my mother uproots and discards not because she is any less faithful but because they make the place look like a cemetery. One that she was too reverent to remove, though, was a 30-inch Blessed Mary figurine. This representation of the Holy Mother sits in a shaded grotto under the trees, about fifty yards from the house, peacefully exfoliating mold and moss. Another relative asked my mother decades ago if he could store his aluminum fishing craft in her yard. With her permission, he placed it close by the statue, upside down. This tableau of faith and skiff was dubbed Our Lady of the Overturned Boat by one of the more cynical members of the family.
I spend a few moments with her every time I return to my ancestral shores. She's a great girl to sit and have a beer with, thanks to the stone bench nearby. What I did not expect was to find another saint in the closet of my mother's guest room.
I admit I jumped back a little when I spotted this statue while attempting to hang up a shirt, not out of agnostic guilt but because at four feet or so tall, she was about the right height for the kind of evil gremlin that hangs out in closets. I realize most of those gremlins work little kids' closets, but you open a closet in a dark room and notice a shadowy figure lurking inside and see how you react. When I asked my mother who she was, Mom replied that she was Mother Cabrini. When I asked her how she got in the closet, the answer was much longer.
Then the diocese decided to shut down the church. They assigned the priest to another parish and locked the building up. My mother was disturbed, since they had given Mother Cabrini to the priest, not the parish.
Most of you may be unaware of this, but few people can plot like elderly Catholic women. A scheme was hatched in which the former secretary of the shuttered parish "forgot" to lock the door to the Hall of Saints and my mother and another guilty octogenarian absconded with Mother Cabrini, Mission Impossible-ing her right out from under the Church's nose in the dead of the afternoon (Mom doesn't drive at night). Mother Cabrini currently sits in the closet because she is still in transit to her rightful priest.
So now when I return to my roots, I drink with Our Lady of the Overturned Boat and I sleep with Hot Mother Cabrini in the Closet.
I feel closer to Heaven already.