Don’t say the ‘S’ word

“Now, whatever you do, don’t say the ‘s’ word for the rest of the day or it won’t happen,” our fifth grade teacher told us.

We were six years old, and we believed. We believed so hard. We told the fifth graders on our bus to be quiet. To stop saying the ‘s’ word! And we were serious. We didn’t want them to ruin all our hard work. We didn’t want them to disappoint Sister Martha, who probably wanted the day off, too. I soon discovered the best thing about winter and a lot of the “s” is that one doesn’t have to follow my dad’s crater-like footprints to school.

One of our local television stations has a fake announcement, where one of their announcers says, “Weather alert, no school today!”

Then he tells how sophisticated their weather reporting is. If I was a young student today, I would only hear the first five words.

As a young boy, I remember how happy I was whenever I heard a real weather announcement. I didn’t have to walk the one block to school; I could spend the morning outside shoveling neighbors’ walks for a few extra dollars to buy sweets at Seidlach’s Grocery Store or spend the afternoon on my sled, very happy that I had steep hills to reach Olympic speeds. (I’m sure many parents prayed for our guardian angels to watch and guard each intersection.)

Guess what? We have a patron saint to pray to when the weather is bad enough to keep kids watching at the window, Saint Eulalia of Merida. Eulalia was a devout Christian girl, aged 12–14, who lived in Rome in the third century. Her mother hid her in the country because the Romans were looking for Christians to kill if they wouldn’t sacrifice to the Roman gods.

Eulalia was eventually caught and tortured. She taunted her torturers all the while and, as she expired, a dove flew out of her mouth. This frightened away the soldiers and allowed a miraculous snow to cover her, its whiteness indicating her sainthood. For this reason, she is regarded among Catholic school children and teachers alike as the patron saint of snow days.

As I write this, it is less than two weeks until Christmas. Manger scenes of the Holy Family sometimes show snow gently caressing this Bethlehem “Nativity House of Worship.” Is that true?

Msgr. Charles Pope says, “While it gets cool in winter, and certain higher altitudes near Jerusalem and Bethlehem can even see snow, this is rare and limited to brief periods during December and January.”

When I was a child, I would turn the television on in the early morning, that is, May to November, to watch cartoons. From December to April, I would be listening with eager longing for “Weather alert, no school today!”

I could go ice skating on that man-made rink on Floyd Boulevard, grateful that some kind soul had built a little hut that one could go into to stay warm. After all, I wouldn’t want any of my schoolteachers to see me enjoying the bitter cold.

St. Eulalia of Merida, pray for us.

                Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese, and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.

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