Sunday, June 12, 2011

An unexpected trip to Mount Carmel.

Update: Baptism and Confirmation went well; Father Bill didn't turn me away. I took advantage of the opportunity to die to my old self. But so far New Sarah seems so similar that nobody should miss Old Sarah too much. And for your enjoyment, a bizarre new story from the Jesus Experiment.

I think I need to start with some background information. I had been reading about the Catholic devotion of wearing the brown scapular, which consists of two small pieces of brown wool tied together with string and worn like a necklace making a sort of sandwich board. The pieces of wool are usually decorated with a pretty picture of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus. This kind of scapular is based on the monastic scapular which is a part of the religious habit that hangs from the shoulders (getting it's name from the scapula bone, or shoulder blade) down the front and back, something like a Catholic poncho. There are plenty of reasons one would wear a scapular. Practically, it serves as a spiritual reminder, like tying a piece of string to your finger. But it also has mystical associations. The tradition of the brown scapular is that the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock of the Carmelite Order. She was holding a brown scapular and told him that, "the one who dies in it will be saved". Since I already wear a scapular medal (apparently less good because it's even less like the monastic scapular) I was thinking about being formally invested into the brown scapular devotion, which is not trivial. The actual wearing of the scapular is more of a sign and reminder to fulfill certain promises such as not having promiscuous sex and saying the rosary each day (it varies a little from person to person). That's what makes it a devotion.

Anyway, the point is that I was researching the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel during the days before I went home for Memorial Day weekend.

On Thursday, I left work to drive the eleventy-billion miles to VT, usually about a 9 hour trip, and a third of the way home I was running low on gas. I also wanted to eat, so I passed some rest stops because they didn't look like they had good food. I guess I passed one stop too many because now there weren't any exits at all, much less any with gas stations. So I started to freak out. I was about to run out of gas and didn't want to call AAA for the second time in one month (after locking my keys in the car at work). But I didn't see any option other than to keep driving so I decided to pray for someone or something to save me from my own stupidity. I started repeating the Hail Mary, knowing from my history of praying the rosary it would, at the very least, quiet my perpetually anxious mind. In the meantime I silently pleaded that my car, Cherry, and I make it to a gas station.

I was close enough to running out of gas that I knew I had to get off at the next exit even though it didn't have a sign for a gas station, or any sort of civilization. As I got closer, I read the exit sign for--I kid you not!--Mount Carmel, PA. I started to have this eerie, Twilight-Zone-type feeling as I pulled off the exit. I came to a T-stop and didn't have a reason to pick one way over the other so I turned toward Mount Carmel which was something like 5 miles away. All I could see was farmland, no inkling of a town or gas station in sight. My feeling of Divine Providence instantly fell away. Until.... the road curved very steeply down hill. The road was so steep that I had to use the brake to maintain a safe speed. I drove several miles like this, realizing there was no way I could make it back to the highway and a little worried that I didn't know where I was. The road bottomed out and started up a small hill and I cringed as I pushed the accelerator and my car struggled up the hill. And at the top of the hill there it was! A gas station. With a yard sign in the empty lot next door saying something crazy like "Jesus could come today!"

Of course as soon as I had what I wanted, I stopped the desperate praying and internally said something like, "Um... thanks?"

The rest of the trip was equally eventful when, about two thirds of the way home, I was just outside of Binghamton and listening to the radio. All of a sudden warning after warning came from the Binghamton weather service that a storm was in the immediate area with 80 mph winds and capable of quarter sized hail and tornadoes. Of course they mentioned a lot of towns and counties that I didn't know. Eventually the rain was so hard that I couldn't see anything. I managed to get to a gas station. Other people stopped, including a guy who only lived 10 miles away, and one person drove into the recycling bin. After texting mom we figured out the storm was ahead of me and moving at 30 mph so I waited for an hour and then set out.

I kept listening to the same radio station to see if there were more warnings. They were playing Delilah. She was taking callers and a woman was telling Delilah that she was on a cross-country road trip with her aunt. "It's been fun so far, but we already ran out of gas once. But we were at the top of a steep hill and were able to coast down and into a gas station. Isn't it amazing how God works in our lives sometimes?" Whoa.

Ok! ok! Fine. I get it. Maybe I should stop making fun of Evangelical Protestants.

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