Idol Chatter

As far as saints go, free-standing statues, mass cards, portraits on the walls, ceramic figurines, and tiny iconic pendants that you can dangle from a chain are par for the course for anyone who grows up an Italian Catholic–namely, me–or, I’d guess, just plain Catholic regardless of ethnicity. In my house you didn’t have to go far before you bumped into some martyred man or sainted lady, though, like for many Italians, St. Anthony–the famous finder of lost things–was the reigning favorite in the hearts of my grandmother and mother.

But roadside billboards? Now that’s a new one.

Beginning Monday, Loyola Press, a Catholic publishing house based in Chicago, will be treating city drivers to some saintly wisdom on their commutes to and from work, with a campaign called “Use Your Common Saints.” St. Jude–also know as the Patron Saint of Desperate Situations–is first on the list for billboard glory, and will be advising motorists that he “knows an alternate route” (ha ha!). A new sign will follow every two weeks until the end of August, featuring the following:

July 10: “St. Joseph says construction takes patience.”
July 24: “Joan of Arc says keep your cool.”
August 7: “St. Anthony offers roadside assistance.”
August 21: “St. Ignatius encourages Mass transit.”

What’s behind this inspired effort to quell summer road rage and breakdown despair? The instant success of their book “My Life With the Saints,” by James Martin–with a dash of company social consciousness thrown in:

“Our goal is to nurture faith-filled lives,” says Joseph Durepos, Loyola Press Acquisitions Director, in a press release about the campaign. “Proclaiming these messages on the Kennedy [Expressway] drives home the idea that God is with us in all that we do, even when we are stuck in traffic.”

I admit, I could use more than a little assistance from St. Joseph in the patience department when I sit in N.Y.C. traffic. Maybe the saints will soon be gracing expressways beyond Chicago if the campagn is a success. Until then, I’ll have to rely on my portable mass cards and pendants.

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