The Queen of My Self

I received this gem via email almost ten years ago. I immediately tracked down the source, obtained permission, and arranged to print it in the next issue of Always in Season, which went out of print in 2006. As it turned out, it was bumped for space and placed into the basket of ideas accumulating for the following edition. This same sequence of events has persisted ever since — put off to the future again and again and yet again. Herewith (finally) is 

The Legend of Sta. Procrastinata

By Elizabeth McLachlan

The story of Sta. Procrastinata is difficult to reconstruct: only one copy of her vita survives, and that in sorry shape. For many years it was kept in the library of a convent not far from Assisi, and after it fell out of the ambry during an earthquake, the precentor neglected for so long to replace it that it suffered considerable damage from damp and rats, leaving the text difficult to decipher and riddled with lacunae.

It would seem, however, that Procrastinata lived in the time of Diocletian, and was condemned by that emperor to horrible tortures as a result of her having neglected, once too often, to pay tribute to the divine emperor. Diocletian, however, preoccupied with more serious offenders, postponed the signing of a series of minor edicts, including Procrastinata’s death warrant, and it lay for so long in his in-casket that the writing became abraded by the frequent shuffling of old papyri: eventually it fell entirely off his to-do list.

Procrastinata therefore languished in prison; as the years went by, her jailer kept meaning to enquire as to her intended fate, but kept putting it off. Finally he, too, became so accustomed to ignoring her that he neglected to provide her with food and drink; she expired, not by a terrible martyrdom on the wheel or in the teeth of lions, but from old age and starvation. (She contributed to her own fate by putting off any form of protest, as involving too much effort and unlikely to accomplish anything.)

Some time later, Procrastinata’s daughter, Festina Lente, who had kept meaning to seek and rescue her mother, if possible, but somehow never found the time, was vouchsafed a vision of her mother hanging around outside the gates of Heaven. St. Peter apparently was always too busy with something else to get around to letting her in. (“What’s another day in eternity?”). Sometime after that, however, he neglected to lock the pearly gates and Procrastinata, by this time cured of her proclivity for putting things off, immediately eeled into Paradise.

Many generations thereafter, in about 1963, the Church got around to canonizing her, and one day soon, when someone has time, she will be added to the official Calendar of Saints, although that will be difficult as the author of her vitae omitted to note the actual date of her death. In the meantime, she is venerated (when they remember) by devotees of the art of procrastination, and invoked by those who suffer its consequences, though the latter, of course, know better than to expect instant results.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to


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