June 10, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

The confusion of hues in the colors of life

Last month for Pentecost Sunday, many parishioners wore red to Mass. This was requested the week before, although many forgot to follow through. (Paul and I complied, but not everyone could see our red shirts peeking from jackets that cool early morning.) A few days after Pentecost, an out-of-state friend shared an e-mail asking that “every red-blooded American wear something red on Fridays to recognize and support our American troops … so let’s get the word out and lead by example.” Thus, we could all feel better on Fridays knowing we were united for our troops.

I wear red often. If this symbolizes support for men and women in the Armed Forces, that is fine with me, but there is more to red than representing the “fire of the Holy Spirit” and supporting our troops. It also represents the Blood of Christ and is worn on Passion Sunday as well as for Masses commemorating martyrs, Apostles, and evangelists.

However, red has opposite connotations, too, as when “seeing red” in anger or strongly opposing someone’s viewpoint or when blushing. Readers surely can think of additional applications.

Senior folks reminded me that in “the old days” most mothers would not allow their daughters to wear red because the color mimicked clothes worn by wanton women. “Ladies do not wear red”—and every girl certainly wanted to be a lady. I, however, grew up without that color limitation so my red attire must have raised a few eyebrows in the older generation.

Conversely, red also symbolizes romantic love, and a Red Cross represents a world-renowned humanitarian organization. Other colors relate to emotions, such as “purple rage”—or to causes, as with pink meaning support for a cure for breast cancer and yellow ribbons supporting missing persons.

A few years ago, I wrote a light verse about color, which I share here. It first appeared in The Village Sampler, edited by the now late fellow parishioner, Lillian Barcio.

Color Crazy

White is pure and brown is gloom;

Gold is sunny; black, the tomb.

Purple’s passion; green is hope—

Or is green envy? I’m a dope

To label hues of life this way:

Pigments might have more to say.

Red is anger? Blue is funk?

Yellow’s chicken? Could be bunk

To capture color in one word.

Aren’t such judgments too absurd?

What if brides wore black instead

And orange bedecked the newly-dead

Or ladies blushed in shades of blue—

Would our world be so askew?

Am I asking … am I telling?

Look at punkers! They’re rebelling

In the way that I’ve suggested.

With this remark, my case is rested.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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