Last Sunday I got my new Miraculous Medal blessed by my parish priest. I had bought it a week before, so I felt like I couldn’t wear it until it was blessed. I mean, I could have, but it wouldn’t have been a sacramental.
Anyway, I happened to find a plastic dish full of large Medals at a Catholic bookstore near my campus. The dish was right next to the register, and, by the dust that had settled on them, the Medals seemed like they were crying out for someone to buy some.
I am a convert to the faith, so this was really the first piece of jewelry that I’ve owned that was solely an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have to admit, it did feel a little uncomfortable at first; when I was in the non-denominational denomination, everyone wore plain crosses (although “plain crosses” are becoming pretty ornate now — just take a stroll through your local LifeWay), so having a Catholic symbol other than a crucifix around my neck was something new for me. Plus, it was larger than a typical Miraculous Medal — about an inch and-a-half long.
Today was final exam day at my college, so I didn’t have to do any real teaching — just hand out the exams and sit there, making sure no one cheated (one student tried, but I had mercy on her). It was a more laid-back type of day. In the morning, I pulled out a plain black t-shirt and jeans from my wardrobe. No one dressed up on finals day. Not at my school, anyway.
I had to admit, the pewter Medal did look really sharp against the plain black shirt. (And, no, my wife didn’t suggest it either; I assembled the outfit and accessory myself.)
I did receive a compliment on my Medal from a Vietnamese student. But just one compliment. It wasn’t like I was out to collect accolades, though. I had to remind myself that I was in the heart of Southern Baptist country.
It was time to grab my midday Starbucks beverage. I went to the nearby Tom Thumb supermarket and got in line at the tiny kiosk that was pushed up against the fresh vegetable section. When it was my turn, I ordered my coffee and a dessert. I glanced up at the screen before swiping my card and was amused to see:
The young woman (the only employee in green) looked at her screen and then glanced directly at my Medal.
You have to understand something: I am well over six feet tall and was wearing an oversized medallion with the Virgin Mary on it. The contrast of silver on black is stark indeed. Plus, due to my medication and my foggy head, I almost always sport a mean-looking frown.
The girl in the green apron and hat finally made eye contact. “Uh, your total is six, sixty-…” I couldn’t even hear the last numeral. I could tell she did not want to be there at that moment.
As if on cue, I laughed and said (not very Christian-like), “My lucky number!” She immediately followed suit, her wide grin brightening her face.
That was it.
Walking across the parking lot, I wondered what, if anything, the barista would have done if I had not been wearing my medallion. Probably nothing.
After what had just transpired, maybe the young woman thought I was the coolest Catholic she had ever met. Or, maybe she thought I had no idea what the Medal stood for; that it was just a fashion statement. Perhaps she realized I was just an ordinary guy, clinging to my faith like a life preserver on the rough seas, always up for a good chuckle at ancient Christian stereotypes.
Actually, I think she just went back to making espresso beverages.