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Living with Saints by Mary O’Connell




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Marching In

Readers are introduced to Mary O’Connell through a collection of stories titled Living with Saints. In each story, O’Connell presents images of women saints, most of whom are re-set in modern situations. If your image of saints includes old stuffy characters, O’Connell expands your horizons. One of my favorites was Saint Catherine Laboure in a tattoo parlor. Here’s an excerpt from that story:

“You’re having second thoughts about the yin-yang sign? Instead you might honor your favorite band by tattooing the Seven Year Bitch logo on your ankle? I’m not so into these new bands; I’m a Stevie Wonder woman myself. I’ll have to take your word that Seven Year Bitch is the bomb. But cruelly, the road from au currant to corny is unpredictable. Imagine a middle-aged lady like me with the Rolling Stones tongue licking her veiny ankle or the ‘Keep On Truckin’ sign tattooed on her ass.
Forgive me. I see that this last image troubles you.
Let me suggest another possibility, for in truth, I am more than a skin artist. I am Saint Catherine Laboure, and the glorious miraculous medallion is my trademark design. Clearly, though, I have revealed myself too soon, because I see the smirk beyond your smile, the phrase forming in your mind: Oh holy shit, it’s Our Lady of the Tattoo Parlor.”

While it helps to know something about the historical lives of these saints, even if you don’t you may enjoy some of the funny situations into which O’Connell places them. The women in these stories are all looking for something, and the saints provide some help in fulfilling their longing. O’Connell also revises a bible story in which the Martha who worked while Mary listened to Jesus, ends up in a relationship with Judas. Catholic women may identify with some of the characters in these stories, and perhaps they can explain to you what they long for, since I can’t.

Steve Hopkins, December 26, 2001


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