April 13, 2007

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Triskaidekaphobia is nothing to fear

Shirley Vogler MeisterThe Criterion’s dateline this week is Friday, April 13.

Tradition claims that this is a day of very bad luck, reminding me of lines from a silly song years ago: “Gloom to spare and agony and grief … if I had no bad luck I’d have no luck at all … .”

I have not gone through life thinking in terms of good luck or bad luck even though at times I have commented on others’ good fortune.

Good things happening are always a time for gratitude and compliments.

During challenging times, I try to think of how I can make the situation better, asking God for strength and courage.

In good times, I thank God for blessings, knowing full well that even the challenges we face can be blessings. I could write a litany of all the bad things that have happened to me in my lifetime, but I’ve learned from every one of them.

Friday the 13th is traditionally regarded as a very bad luck day, just as the number 13 itself is considered bad luck. Many people actually fear this day, and the fear even has a name: triskaidekaphobia.

When I discovered this years ago, I learned to let the word trip off my tongue gracefully, often with a happy musical beat. (Try “triskaidekaphobia” to the tune of the Lone Ranger’s song—or your favorite hymns.)

That’s probably as silly as someone actually being afraid of Friday the 13th. About 10 years ago, a news report in The Electronic Telegraph said, “It’s just bad luck that the 13th is so often on a Friday. Reportedly, Napoleon, Herbert Hoover, Mark Twain, Richard Wagner and Franklin Roosevelt were triskaidekaphobes.”

The triskaidekaphobia word itself comes from the Greek “treiskaidek” or “triskaideka,” which means 13 (the addition of three and 10) and phobia (fear).

In some Christian countries, the number 13 was considered unlucky because there were 13 persons at the Last Supper of Christ, with Judas (the traitor) being the last to join the others. Fridays were considered unlucky because the Crucifixion happened on a Friday.

How much off base can this superstition be! Christ’s sacrifice on the cross led to salvation, an eternal gift and blessing, not a curse. If anything, Friday the 13th should be celebrated by Christians.

When I was a teenager attending a Catholic high school in Illinois, I impressed friends by telling them I hoped some day to have 13 children.

Yes, that was my happy plan. The trouble is: I’m 10 short because my husband and I have three daughters. Now, I could claim that God preferred my trio to represent the Holy Trinity, but that’s as silly as being afraid of the number 13.

Rational, faithful, happy people are not superstitious.

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

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