Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Fighting Mummy

The day was hot and muggy. University students and old men sat languidly in the shade of the main plaza of a little town in the coastal desert of Peru. The Cathedral bells rang twelve noon.
Santos, a swaggering, tough 13-year-old shoeshine boy was giving some advice to “The Mummy.” Mummy was his skinny, coughing, barefoot nine-year-old friend. Suddenly, Santos whispered, “Quick! Here he comes!”
The two boys scurried in different directions. They clutched their boxes of equipment tightly so nothing would fall out.
A fat, angry, plaza guard, waving a stick, chased after them. The guard chased after one, and then the other. But the boys were too quick. Breathless, sweating, and fuming,the guard gave up.
The boys, laughing and puffing, soon found one another again and sat down to rest. “That’s the third time this morning,” Mummy gasped. A fit of coughing prevented him from further conversation.
Santos begged a glass of water from the woman at a nearby fruit stand. He offered it to Mummy. “Here, take it easy. We got away, didn’t we?”
Mummy said nothing. He had been shining shoes for two years, ever since he was seven. He had learned a lot of things and now he sat with his elbows resting on his knees, his chin almost touching his knees, almost like the ancient Peruvian mummies. He had been sitting like that the day the boys gave him his nickname.
Just then, a big man in an expensive grey suit came along. Mummy called out, “Shine, sir.” The man stopped, looked at his shoes and then put one foot on Mummy’s box.
Business-like the boy set to work. First, he brushed off the dust; then he carefully applied a little polish. Mummy protected the man’s sock by running his little finger along the top edge of the shoe as he put the polish on.
Next he splashed a few drops of water from a little bottle. The drops rolled around on the shoe and Mummy massaged them into the polish with his fingers.
Then came the shine with the special rag his mother had made him from his father’s old trousers. Mummy seemed to be attached to some source of electric power as his arms moved the rag over the shoe like a continually reversing conveyor belt. At last, the shoes shone like new mirrors. Mummy slapped the tow of on shoe and held out a polish smudged hand for hit tip.
Santos had a customer too, so Mummy waited and survey the world through two pensive brown eyes.
For two months the battle had been on. It had all started with the Mayor’s Clean Up Campaign. The plaza guards had been ordered to chase the shoeshine boys out of the Plaza. They might hurt the tourist trade.
Santos finished and rejoined Mummy. “Let’s get something to eat,” he said.
“If I eat, I won’t have much to take home,” Mummy said.
“Well, you have got to eat something,” Santos ordered. “That’s why your cough hangs on. You didn’t eat anything yesterday. C’mon,Doña Rosa will give us a saucer ofseviche for five soles.(Peruvian currency at the time of story) We will split it.”
The boys shared the seviche (a popular Peruvian dish of raw fish marinated in a sauce of lemon juice, onions, and hot pepper). Santos continued to counsel Mummy. “We have to fight the Mayor. The good guys want to change things. Before, the Mayor could live in town and go out, when he felt like it, to collect from the guys who worked his farm. Now absentee landlords are having trouble. He afraid he will lose the farm, so he is trying to get an edge on the tourist trade.
“My dad says we have got to stay in the Plaza. Nowadays, poor people have rights, too, but we have to fight for them.”
Mummy counted his earnings. He held out his hand for Santos to see how little it was.
Santos insisted, “Yeah, I know. We are losing the fight, but just the same, we have got to fight.”
Mummy handed back the plate toDoña Rosa, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and rubbed his hands on his trousers. Suddenly, he darted across the street and pounced on a boy his own size. Soon the two were down on the pavement, locked in a vicious struggle. Mummy was searching the other boy’s pockets. The victim pushed and kicked trying to escape, but Mummy was on top and would not let him go.
Santos caught up and tried to reason with Mummy. “Mummy, what did the kid do to you?”
“He borrowed ten soles a week ago. I have asked him for it three times,’ gasped Mummy.
The boy on the ground blinked back tears as he said, “As soon as I get it, I’ll give it to you.”
“Aw, let him go, Mum. He hasn’t got it,” ruled Santos.
Mummy’s eyes showed a moment of indecision, but with one last punch, he said, “Okay, but tomorrow.” The debtor, after a grateful look at Santos, scampered off.
Mummy poked his friend in the ribs. “Santos,” he said. How come you want me to fight for the plaza, but not for my ten soles?”
“Listen. All us shoeshine kids have to stick together. The bad guys like it when we fight one another. It means we are not fighting them,” Santos explained. “The plaza belongs to everybody.”
Mummy thought about this as he always did anything that Santos said.
When night came, the two boys went their separate ways. Mummy dragged his feet because the day had brought only fifty soles. What can Ma do with that,’ he asked himself.
As he walked home, he wished with all his heart that Papa was still with them, but it had been two years since that night when he stopped coughing for ever. Since then, Ma sold fruit in the market. Elvira, Mummy’s eleven-year-old sister, watched the house and took care of their baby brother.
At last, Mummy reached the dark narrow alley and found his way to the piece of corrugated zinc that served as a door to the one room that was home. As his eyes got used to the candlelight, he saw Ma at the wooden table mending an old shirt.
Mummy placed his earnings on the tableas Elvira brought him the dish of rice she had saved from dinner.

As Ma gathered the soles, she said, “You look all tuckered out. You are working too hard.” Ma made made you feel proud of whatever you did.

When it was time for bed, she unrolled the lambskins and the boys settled down for the night under one blanket on one side of the room, Ma and Elvira on the other. For a few minutes Santos and his baby brother wrestled one another. Soon all were quiet.

Mummy awakened early the next morning. He stole out before the others wakened. He wanted to get to the plaza and do a few shines before it was time to go to school.
For five months he had struggled to earn a little every day. His cough got worse and worse. Ma took him to the government clinic. The doctor gave him medicine and told Ma to see that he got lots of milk and meat.
As the days went by Mummy got less able to run from the plaza guard, but Santos looked for him when it was time to eat. Often they split a saucer of seviche.
Then, one day Mummy fainted and a policeman took him to the hospital. The doctor told Ma that he was very sick. Santos visited him every day. On the third day, Santos saw that Mummy was trying to say something.
Mummy was very weak, his voice was a hoarse whisper, his hospital gown was damp with perspiration, but he struggled to sit up.Just before he fell back on the pillow, Santos heard him say, “Shine, sir.”
© 2009 Photo and story Elizabeth V. Roach - This story is adapted from a story Sister Elizabeth published in CATHOLIC FIRESIDE, in Britain in 1975. It was based on the life of Augusto Berrocal who died of tuberculosis at the age of fourteen in Ica, Peru.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Toribio, The Good Judge

Toribio, The Good Judge

Elizabeth V Roach
In 1538, a baby boy was born on the plains in Spain in the town of Mallorca in a village called Mogrovejo. His parents said, “Let’s call him Toribio.”

Toribio became a lively boy. He made many friends because he liked to be with others. He played games with his friends.  And when Toribio played he was always fair. He never cheated. In school, he studied hard.

When he grew up, he became a lawyer. It was a time when many harsh people were in power, both in government and even in the church. Men and women were imprisoned, tortured and even burned alive. It was called the time of the Inquisition.

Everybody was glad when Toribio, the lawyer, was appointed a judge, because he was known as just, and fair, and merciful.

Then, one day, King Philip II, Prince of the Asturias, ruler of all Spain in Europe and in the Americas.received the bad news that things were bad in the colonies.

King Philip said, “I need someone to set things straight.”  He looked about and saw how people trusted Toribio.

King Philip sent a notice to the Pope. “I want Toribio made a bishop.” In those days Kings could tell the Pope who they wanted as a bishop.

The Pope made Toribio a bishop. Then, King Philip II named Toribio, Archbishop of Lima, Peru, and of all the King’s colonies from Ecuador to Argentina!

Imagine how Toribio felt.  He had to do as the King and the Pope asked.  He had to leave his home, his family, and his work.

And very soon, he found himself on a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  There was no Panama Canal I those days, so he had to travel overland to cross the continent, then sail again in the Pacific Ocean.

When, at last, he arrived, all the King’s agents welcomed him. Everyone wanted to be near Toribio, a friend of the King and the Pope.

Some were afraid, because Toribio had served as a judge of the terrifying Inquisition, but Toribio had been a good inquisitor who saved many people from unjust treatment.

The viceroy, the King’s number one man, expected Toribio to settle all his difficulties. Toribio did what he could for the Viceroy, but he remembered that he was the archbishop of all the people from Ecuador to Argentina.

One day, Toribio set out to visit everyone. He climbed mountains. He walked through valleys. He crossed rivers and rode horses. He rode mules, and he also walked and walked and walked. He visited all the King’s Colonies. He visited what we now call Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. He may have passed through Paraguay, too. He visited, not once, but twice in many places.

Spanish military, church and civil authorities who were unjust, greedy, or cruel, trembled when Toribio visited their towns and villages. They were afraid, because Toribio talked to everyone and went everywhere. And Toribio saw that, in many places, the native peoples were treated badly by the Spaniards.

Toribio thought about the way people were treated. It made him sad, and he decided to do something about it.

First, he ordered his priests to treat everyone with respect, Spaniards and Native Peoples alike. He ordered them to show special kindness, and to share whatever they had with the poor. He insisted that priests were to live holy lives according to the teachings of Jesus.

To make certain the priests understood, he called them all to a great meeting, called The Second Synod of Lima where he spoke to them about all the things they were to do.

 People didn’t have two cars in those days, but some had two mules. Toribio said if a priest needed a mule, he was to have only one. If he had two, he was to give it away or sell it to help the poor.  Everyone must be kind and help the poor, he insisted.

Toribio founded a seminary to train priests the way he wanted them to be. Almost 450 years later, he is still remembered. The Seminary in Lima, Peru is named for him.

Toribio was not satisfied with telling the priests to be kind. He wanted the people to know what Jesus taught. In those days to print anything, it was necessary to have permission from the King. The King was far away in Spain.

Toribio was a lawyer. He knew the law, but he didn’t wait for any permission. He printed the first catechism in the New World. And he printed it in three languages, Spanish, Quechua and Aymara. The latter are two of the languages of the Native Peoples of Peru.

Toribio insisted so much on the rights of native peoples that he became known as the Defender of The Indigenous. Indigenous means native. Indigenous people are the people native to an area or a country, the first people to live there.

Toribio was so good and kind, that the Catholic Church calls him a Saint. So, if you are ever treated unfairly, remember Toribio, the good lawyer, and insist on fair treatment for yourself and everyone else.

The feast of St. Toribio is celebrated on

March 23.

Toribio is his Spanish name.

In Latin, his name is Turibius

© All rights reserved for stories and photos, Elizabeth V. Roach 2008

My Story Hour Blog


Friday, January 8, 2016

Keeping Track of Time
             Nobody wants to waste time. Some save time. Others buy time. Some kill time.
Older people will tell you time flies.  Others say, time is money. Teenagers find time hangs heavy on their hands.  What is time? Do you ever wonder how people came to say such strange things about time?

Astronomers, physicists, and many others have been trying to solve the mystery of time for thousands of years.  Astronomers study the stars. Physicists want to know how and when time began. Accurate timekeeping is important for everyone from athletes to heart surgeons.


Twenty-thousand years ago, when no one had ever heard of minutes, hours or seconds, people noticed that the sun came up every day and the moon every night. They scratched lines and made little holes on wood and even on bones to keep track of time. They were the first time detectives gathering evidence.


Five thousand years ago Sumerians were a people who lived in what is present day Iraq. They watched the sun, the moon and the stars. From their studies they made a calendar with thirty-day months. Instead of twenty-four hour days, they divided the daylight into twelve parts.

Later, in Egypt, other people noticed a special star. It appeared every year, when the Nile River began to overflow and flood their land.  They invented a calendar with 365 days. The year they did that is called the first year of recorded history. Today we call that 4326 B.C.

Egyptians around 3500 B.C. built four-sided, tall, slender posts that tapered to a point at the top. We call these obelisks. The Egyptians watched the shadows their obelisks cast. The shadow moved from one side of the obelisk to the other as the day went on. Time detectives had discovered noon. At one time of year, the shadow was longer. At another time, the shadow was shorter. That longest shadow fell on the shortest day.  The shortest shadow fell on the longest day..
By the year 2000 B.C. the Sumerians and their culture had disappeared. Babylonians then living in Iraq knew nothing of the Sumerian inventions. They didn’t know about the thirty-day months the Sumerians had developed. So, the Babylonians divided the year into twelve alternating months. One month had 29 days and the next one had 30 days. Their calendar had 354 days.
Even before the Babylonians made their calendar, the Mayan people, in Central America, were watching Venus, the morning star. They had two different systems for measuring a year. For some, the year had 260 days. For others, a year had 365 days. Mayans kept detailed records of their studies. They came to believe that time began in the year 3113 B.C.  Eventually, their time studies became part of the Aztec System. The Aztecs became famous as time detectives. They recorded important events on large stones.  Some of these stones still exist.
Having a calendar helped a lot. Farmers could predict the times of the year when certain crops should be planted. Celebrations could be scheduled, and plans could be made for special occasions during the year.
 Soon people also wanted to plan their day as well as the year. So, they invented sundials. Egyptians probably made the first one.  It was made of a bar of wood or stone with a slightly higher crossbar at one end. The higher crossbar cast a shadow on the lower, longer bar.
Time detectives marked the places where the sun’s shadow fell for each hour, and even the minutes. Some sundials were very elegantly carved in stone. Even today sundials are used in many places.  They come in all shapes and sizes.

A sundial has two main parts. The face and the gnomon. The face is the flat part. The gnomon is the element that casts the shadow. To correctly tell the time, the gnomon has to point to the North Pole, or in the Southern Hemisphere to the South Pole.
Some sundials are huge and built in town squares. Others can be seen on the walls of buildings. A famous one in Milan has the form of a ship. 
In Frankfort, Kentucky, a sundial honors the veterans from Kentucky who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.  It is built so that, the shadow falls on the name and date of each war hero’s  anniversary of death. Located in a plaza that overlooks the State Capitol, it also tells time and serves as a huge solar calendar.
Over the centuries, time detectives worked hard to calculate the correct time.  Eventually,  they invented clocks. They tried water clocks, and. mechanical clocks with pendulums. Today we have quartz, computer chip, and even atomic clocks.

. For centuries, time was measured according to the earth’s movements around the sun, but clocks always had to be corrected. The “detectives” found the clocks could be slightly ahead or behind the sun’s time.  This is because the earth’s axis is slightly tilted and our planet follows an elliptical  route around the sun. Today, international agreements determine what time it is all over the world

Atomic clocks give us a very precise time. They depend on the natural frequency of the Cesium atom. Time detectives at the U.S. Naval Observatory say atomic clocks are still off by one millionth of a second per year.

Physicists have discovered many things about time. The Big Bang Theory tells us that the world is about 14 billion years old. But is that when time began?

The earth continues to twirl through the heavens. Astronomers discover black holes, new particles, and many other wonderful aspects of our world.  Physicists calculate their meaning; geologists examine the earth, and astronauts take photos. Yet, time still holds many mysteries! Do you think about time?  What is it for? Do you like time to yourself? Do you spend time with others? How do you use time?
To learn more about sundials: Look for the North American Sundial Society on the Internet.

You will find a list of sundials in most USA States and some other countries, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Good King Wenceslaus


Good King Wencelaus was a kind and generous nobleman in Bohemia more than a thousand years ago.  He went out of his way to help the poor people on his lands. He was so good that people felt happy just to see him. They came to believe that just being near him was a blessing.
On the day after Christmas, the feast of St. Stephen, Good King Wenceslaus looked out his window.  He saw  a poor servant walking home in a blizzard.
Good King Wenceslaus called a servant and asked him to gather food and firewood. The  King wanted to go to the poor man’s house to help him. He wanted the poor man to have food and a warm house.
Good King Wenceslaus set out in the snow.  The servant walked behind him.  When the servant felt the cold and it was hard to walk in the blizzard.  He said, “Good King, I cannot go on.” If the servant turned back alone, he would get lost in the blizzard.
Good King Wencelaus encouraged him saying, “I will make the path. Try stepping in my footsteps.”
As he walked in the footsteps of Good King Wenceslaus, the servant felt warm again. Together, the King and the servant trudged on through the blizzard. Later, the servant told everyone about how even in a blizzard, he felt warm near Good King Wencelaus.

That is why a famous Christmas Carol begins with the words, “Good King Wenceslaus, on the feast of Stephen, . . ”

The lyrics were written by  John Mason Neale, but the tune was found in an ancient Finnish Hymn Book.

Books by Elizabeth V Roach can be found at

Maryknoll Sisters - Making God's Love Visible in 26 countries!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Story Telling

                                                                                              'photo Shirley King


             Many eons ago, people  sat around a fire on a cold winter nights. They listened to a story. On summer evenings they did the same. On lakeside, beach, mountain, desert  or river bank, it didn’t matter. Stories were remembered, invented, created. Young and old enjoyed listening.
             People have gathered to hear stories for thousands of years.  The first storytellers had only their voices, their memories, and their imagination, but their stories were cherished, remembered and passed on.  Stories were told before pencils, books, television, radio, computers, tablets or cell phones were even imagined.
.           The Story Teller was a special person in the community. His or her task was not only to entertain, but to answer big questions. Humans have always had big questions to wonder about.
            They wondered about the big fireball in the sky. Why did it appear every day and go away every night?  They watched that other light, too. They wondered why that big silver light came in the night. Why did it come sometimes as a silver crescent, and other times as a complete round disk?
            Whenever people wondered about mysterious events in their lives, they hoped the storyteller would help them understand it. 
            Story Tellers were special. They had to remember every detail of the story and be able to invent new stories. To be a story teller was a special calling.
            As time went on, story tellers, discovered they could draw their stories on the walls of caves. Later, people who wanted to remember stories made paper from papyrus. Papyrus was a plant with fibers that could be woven together. Story tellers learned to use thorns, and tips of feathers to write on paper with vegetable dyes,
            Other story tellers used clay tablets. Papyrus and clay tablets could be carried and shared with others.  Stories were passed on for hundreds of years in this way.     
            Then, in 1440, a German man, named Johannes Gutenberg, invented a machine that printed letters on paper. The first dated book known had been printed in China, but Gutenberg’s  Press launched modern printing. Stories were available for reading by many, many people. More and more people learned not only to tell stories, but to read then, too.
            Later, radio and television brought stories to even more people.
            Today, we have computers, tablets, cell phones and many varieties of these. Many more people have access to stories.
            Now we know many facts about that fireball, the sun, and the night light, we call the moon. But there are still many big questions which scientists still wonder about. Story tellers still try to answer them.  In fact, some of our modern inventions were first spoken of by story tellers and then invented by others who thought about the ideas of the story tellers.
            Leonardo Da Vinci, a famous artist, in the 1480’s, watched how birds flew. He thought there was a way for people to fly. He put his thoughts and drawings in notebooks which are still read today.
Chester Greenwood, a 13-year old boy in Farmington, Maine, thought about how cold his ears got while he ice skated. He made little ear covers for his ears. At first, his friends laughed at him. Then, they noticed that, he played outside long after their cold ears sent them inside. Later, Chester obtained a patent and made his fortune on ear muffs
Many people tell stories today. Sports announcers tell us the stories of games and athletes. News reporters tell us stories of what is happening in our world.
Authors and writers create stories to entertain us. These stories are called fiction.
Stories can be about things that are going on right now or that have happened in the past. When the story is about one of these events or people, or things, they are called Nonfiction.
While fiction may not mention the name or tell the details of an event as it happened, fiction often tells us very important truths.  For example, if you want to read a story about how life actually was when Charles Dickens, a great writer, was alive, read A Christmas Carol, or David Copperfield.   Mr. Dickens lived then. Terrible things happened to poor people. He might have gotten into trouble, been put in jail or even put to death if he gave the names and addresses of people who were responsible for the awful things that happened.  Instead he created fiction stories. Everybody understood what he was writing, even though he did not mention actual names and addresses.
In the United States of America we are very fortunate because we have freedom of the press. Mr. Gutenberg made the first “press.”  Since then there have been many new kinds of printing presses. However, when we refer to the freedom to write, we call it freedom of the press. That is any type of written material that anyone distributes.
If the story, news report or whatever is spoken, then the person is exercising freedom of speech, too.
These rights are very important. What is said to be nonfiction must be factually true. We cannot use our freedom of speech to lie about anyone, or misrepresent what has happened.
Fiction writers can create a story about actual events, but they may not name actual people or cite events, actions, or situations. They have to change names, addresses, and sometimes even the event.  Nevertheless, they can tell the story, just as Mr. Dickens and many other authors have by creating names, places, events.
My book SECRET MELODY is an example of fiction based on actual events. I could create the story because it is well known that people are fleeing from terrorists, that child immigrants are being brought across borders, I told the story of a boy and girl who were separated from their parents by terrorists, how it happened and what happened to them. I did not name the terrorists. The children had fictional names. Their adventures were described without giving names of actual people.
I like being a storyteller.  Storytelling continues today as it began eons ago. Let’s create stories that will entertain and inspire others on cold winter nights and on warm summer days. Stories can delight us, cheer us up when we are sad, and help us think about this wonderful world. Write a story today!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New Book

Don't miss Elephant Joan and her antics when she finds a cell phone in her path!
available online

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Elizabeth V Roach
Discover why Benny wonders why the tree is crying.
 Thomas hears a "little sound."  What is it?
Benabab meets three basket makers. What happens?
What is the new custom from another land that
Peter and Marisa try?
New book available online in paperback and e-book.