I first spoke with Sister Ruth over the phone one Friday. I explained that I wrote for a local newspaper and asked if it would be alright if I accompanied her the next day as she ministered to the needy, homeless or otherwise troubled and wrote an article on it. She accepted happily. “That would be wonderful”, she said. “I’ve been molested and attacked with swords before while attending to my work… that won’t happen if there’s a man with me”.
I paused, unable to respond for a second. Swords? Where had she been working? I gathered myself. “No Sister”, I replied. “That won’t happen”.
I walked down to Cabin Hotel at 11 o’clock on a beautiful Saturday morning to meet Sister Ruth. As I waited in the lobby for her to come downstairs, I wondered why the Sisters of Saint Francis had put her up in a hotel. Shouldn’t she be staying at one of the rectories in either Reykjavík or Hafnafjörður? Or at one of her sister convents? My thoughts were cut short as Sister Ruth approached, a woman of advanced middle age, dressed in “civilian” clothing, topped with a Jesus Fish baseball cap. Propped in her arms, facing me, she carried a two foot tall staue of Mary. I scratched my head.
We walked down Borgatún in the dazzling Reykjavík summer sunshine, the sky blue and clear. Reykjavíkingar were out in force, enjoying the weather. Sister Ruth had been on the television the night before, ensuring her instant recognition. People smiled and pointed as we walked past. It was established that Sister Ruth is a missionary nun, based in London, with her home convent near Knock in Ireland. She said that she had been all over the world ministering. I asked her where she would like to begin in Reykjavík. She said that she would like very much to meet my wife and child. I wondered why, but didn’t ask. As we continued walking my eyes kept drifting back to the statue she carried. It looked solid and heavy. My guilt grew, I scratched my head. “Sister,” I said, “Let me carry that for you”. She gave it to me. Now I was part of the parade. Damnit… I quickened my pace to my apartment.
The Plot to Kill Lady Di
At my house Sister Ruth held my daughter, drank tea and chatted. She talked briefly about her experiences in different countries. She spoke about working with prostitutes in Amsterdam’s red-light district. “You know they sit in those windows with no clothing on, and I just sat beside them and talked “ she said. My wife replied that must not have been good for business. I stifled a laugh.
It soon became obvious that Sister Ruth had no idea of where to find the needy in Reykjavík. I found it odd that she should be sent out to do her work without so much as a connection with any Catholic charities. My wife and I myself busied ourselves calling soup kitchens, poverty assistance centers and finally the Salvation Army, attempting to find some unfortunates for Sister Ruth to lead to salvation. My daughter cooed and hooted in the nun’s lap, trying repeatedly to grab the likeness of Mary on the table in front of her. Sister Ruth explained that she always carried the statue of Our Lady because it opens up people’s hearts. She informed us that once on a plane a gentleman sitting next to her identified himself as a member of British Intelligence. He went on to confess that Princess Diana had in fact been murdered as part of a conspiratorial plot between the Royal family and MI5. I scratched my head and cleared my throat.
Enter the Satanists
We were soon driving to Samhjálp, a soup kitchen located downtown on Hverfisgata. As we drove, Sister Ruth (statue propped on her lap, looking out the windshield) regaled me with tales of ex-Satanists in America confessing to her, solemnly and with much weeping, to all manner of perversion, drug abuse, even human sacrifice. I drove faster. She said she doubted if there was much of that here. I agreed whole-heartedly. Probably very, very little. I parked the car, we both got out. I rang the door bell. I slammed on the door. Samhjálp was closed. I was getting desperate to find someone, anyone for Sister Ruth to help… I was becoming more and more convinced that Sister Ruth was herself desperately in need of help.
Our next stop was the Salvation Army. I rushed the front desk and asked in clumsy Icelandic if any of the Army were around. He looked at me, perplexed. I asked again, this time in English, if any of the salvation soldiers were around. Behind my shoulder he saw Sister Ruth, Mary in hand, chatting with German backpackers trying to check in to the hostel that the Salvation Army runs.
Sister Ruth- Hello and where are you two from?
German Backpacker Girl- We’re from Leipzig, Germany.
Sister Ruth- Oh how nice! God bless. (in a horrible German
accent) Und danke schoooone!
The backpacker looked at me for an explanation. I had none to offer. The gent behind the desk offered us a seat in a waiting area and kindly assured me he’d get the head of the house here in a few minutes.
England Goes to the Dogs (and the Freemasons)
We waited for a half an hour for the soldier of salvation. Sister Ruth detailed the suffering she experiences routinely while she is back at her London base. She is constantly spat at, beaten up, chased, mocked and molested, even while carrying the likeness of Mary with her at all times. England is going down the tubes. There’s pornography everywhere. The children are all hooligans. All the women are having abortions. “It’s all to do with the Freemasons you know”, she says, “they’ve become very strong in Britain in the last years…they’re trying to stamp out Christianity, they’re all Satanists, the Freemasons, did you know that?” No, I replied. I did not know that. The Salvation Army chief shows up, in full regalia, white shirt, white hat, white beard. He is from Norway, has only very recently arrived and has NO idea where we might find some homeless or otherwise helpless. Sister Ruth and the Norwegian chatted away happily for a few minutes, about what I don’t know. I asked the desk clerk for the address of any rehab centers, halfway houses, anything. He gave me one. I thanked him, collected Sister Ruth and made a hasty exit.
The weather had turned, and I drove slowly through the rain. Our Lady of Victories, Sister Ruth and myself kept our eyes peeled for the address of the halfway house the desk clerk gave me. At last we located it, and of course it was empty, and seemingly abandoned.
By now it was raining quite hard for Iceland. Sister Ruth offered to buy me a cup of coffee. I politely refused; I had to be at work soon. I had best drop her back at her hotel. On the way, she cheerfully assured me of how lucky I am to live in Iceland. “They seem not to have lost their love for Our Lady here, as they have in so many other European countries” she said. “You know we’re living in the End Times, Armageddon times, but I really believe the Virgin will spare Iceland when the atomic holocaust finally ushers in the end.” I said I was glad to hear it. When I left her in the lobby of Hotel Cabin, she gave me and my wife gifts. Miniatures of Mary and Christ. For my daughter, a rosary that glows green in the dark, to be hung over her bed.
Sister Ruth was last seen dancing with a group of mentally handicapped children in the grass of the town square, a statue of the Virgin in her arms.