It started innocently enough. It was my day off and I was looking for a movie. That particular day my eyes were drawn to the cover of the movie Whip It. Whip It is the story of a girl who rejects her mother’s plans for her to be a beauty queen in favor of being a part of the Texas Roller Derby. It was a fun movie.
Curious, I went online to see if there actually was a Texas Roller Derby. Not only did I discover that there really was an active Texas Roller Derby, I learned that I would be in Austin when there was a match. My brother and I decided to go, and what I found was one of the most entertaining sports I have ever seen. As I watched the Holy Rollers compete with the Rhinestone Cowgirls I was amazed. Here was a group of women who were able to be deadly serious as they skated as hard as they could and at the same time take themselves so lightly that everyone gathered couldn’t help but have a good time.
Isn’t that the same combination that every saint excelled at during their lives? There is a unique mixture of seriousness and lightheartedness that permeates the lives of the saints. The saints are always aware of the seriousness that is required for those who seek to live the Christian life. They are also, however, aware of the the fact that in the end, it isn’t really up to them to earn their salvation and that ultimately it is only through God’s grace that one can achieve anything. The saints that I most admire are also the ones who while being serious, don’t take themselves too seriously. Being able to laugh at oneself is a great cure for the temptation of pride.
Over the past few years I have gotten to know a few of the women who find joy in the roller derby. It may seem like an odd thing for a priest to enjoy, but I will admit that the roller derby is very fun. The genesis of this post was when my friend Moxy left me a message on Facebook asking, “If Saint Lidwina of Schiedam is the patron saint of roller skating does that de facto make her the patron saint of roller derby?” This seemed like a reasonable conclusion to me, but it also raised a few questions. Who is Saint Lidwina of Schiedam and why was she the patron saint of roller skating?
It seems that Saint Lidwina is a Dutch saint who loved to go ice skating until she fell and broke her rib. The broken bone led to many complications and also it seems to her spending lots of time during her time of sickness praying intercessory prayers for others. She became known for her fasting and as a healer. When another derby friend Molly heard about Saint Lidwina, she noted that anyone who ended up with a broken rib as a result of skating sounded like the perfect saint for the roller derby. She also pointed out that many in the derby claim Saint Catherine of Alexandria as their patron saint.
Perhaps they have chosen St. Catherine as their patron saint due to the fact she is often portrayed with a wheel as she was eventually sentenced to death on the breaking wheel. Legend has it that the breaking wheel itself was broken at her touch and as a result she was beheaded. As one of the early virgin martyrs, she told her parents that she would only be wed to one who was more beautiful, intelligent and wealthier than she. Ultimately that person would be Christ.
St. Catherine is among the saints known as the Fourteen Holy Helpers and has historically been seen as a powerful intercessor, especially as a saint who can be called upon to prevent a sudden death. Like the women of the roller derby, she is most certainly a strong figure. Along with her fellow Holy Helpers, the following prayer is one that can be prayed for the intercession of these saints as one prepares to go to bed.
When at night I go to sleep,
Fourteen angels watch do keep,
Two my head are guarding,
Two my feet are guiding;
Two upon my right hand,
Two upon my left hand.
Two who warmly cover
Two who o’er me hover,
Two to whom ’tis given
To guide my steps to heaven.
I can’t think of a better prayer to prepare myself for sleep each night.
*Thanks to Brent LaVelle for providing pictures of the Texas Lonestar Roller Girls for this post. Check out www.txrd.com for more about Texas Roller Derby.