Saint Salome - A Biblical “Helicopter Mom”

St. Salome
When my oldest started college in 2004, there was some confusion over his dorm room telephone number (one of the last traces of land-line phones for university students!).  After helping my son move into his room and then making the three hour drive back home, I tried calling him on the phone to let him know that I had made it safely back to the house ― but the call would not go through.  Even his computer wouldn’t work, so we couldn’t connect through e-mail either (very limited texting at this point!). 

A Scolding
The next day, still unable to reach him, I called the office for campus housing and for some reason, the Vice President of Student Affairs answered.  I began to explain that I couldn’t get in touch with my son and then got a speech about “Letting Go” and the importance of not being a “Helicopter Mom” – a mom who “hovers” over her children.  I was a little taken aback.  In my mind I was just trying to model considerate behavior to my son by letting him know that I had made it back home!  A Helicopter Mom!?!  I had never heard of the term before ― but have heard it now and then since.  Evidently, some college administrators and professors like parents to stay in the far distance, and will label those who get too close as “Helicopter Parents.”

St. Salome With Young James and John
Saint Salome
Recently I was researching some of the women in the Bible and came across one of my favorites, Salome (suh-LOH-mee), and realized that she was a bit of a Helicopter Mom herself!  There are actually two Salomes in the Bible; the first to appear is the step-daughter (and great-half-niece … it’s very confusing) of the tetrarch Herod Antipas (actually, her name is never recorded in Scripture, but historians tell us that Salome was indeed her name).  She is the one who asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. 

St. Salome at the Crucifixion of Jesus
The second Salome is a much nicer one - and an official saint.  This Salome (sometimes called Mary Salome to avoid confusion with the first-mentioned Salome) was one of those Galilean women who traveled with and assisted Jesus and the apostles.  Saint Salome was present at Christ’s crucifixion and one of the first to see the empty tomb on the first Easter Sunday (she and some friends were bringing spices to anoint his body).  By meshing all four Gospels together and reading between the lines just a bit, it seems most likely that this Salome was also the mother of two of Jesus’ closest apostles: James and John, the sons of Zebedee - who would then be Salome’s husband.

Statue of St. Salome on the Facade of the
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Saint Salome’s Request
Salome’s Helicopter Mom story is a touch arrogant and prideful, but wonderful just the same.  Jesus had been preaching within Judea, and had just hinted for the third time about his soon-to-happen passion.   Salome, although from Galilee, was at the time in Judea (about 70 miles away from Galilee) with the group.  Jesus had obviously made a profound impression on her, and she began mulling over possibilities for James and John concerning their connection with Jesus.  While in Judea, Salome approached the Lord with her sons, paid homage (she probably bowed low or knelt) and prepared to ask for a BIG favor:

He said to her, “What do you wish?”  She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” ~Matthew 20: 21

What a Helicopter Mom!  Asking for such a favor!  On one hand, I’m aghast.  Who did she think she was?  On the other, if it was me, I’d be tempted to do the same!   What mother wouldn’t want to encourage closeness between her sons and Jesus?  Why not ask?  Also, I love the way she asked for her sons, rather than for herself.

Jesus’ Reply
Jesus’ response to Salome was quite frank.  He explained that James and John had no idea how much difficulty would have to be endured.  He also made it clear that God already had plans for who gets what place in heaven.  The other ten apostles felt resentful over this request.  Clearly, they did not want to be usurped in any way and likely desired glorious spots in Jesus’ kingdom for themselves.  (I wonder what the other Galilean women thought of Salome’s request!)  Christ then reminded all present of the importance of humility and of serving others, that those hoping to have the greatest spots in His kingdom would have to live gentle and meek lives. 

St. Salome
A Mother’s Love
Jesus’ points were good, important, and impactive (of course!).  Still, however, I love a mother’s heart.  Salome’s desires are, at least to a degree, admirable.  Mothers often are over-zealous for their children.  That happens.  Although she didn’t get the response she hoped for, I like to think that the experience brought her and her two sons one step closer to knowing and understanding the true message of Christ.

By skimming over a few chapters in the Gospel of Matthew following the intriguing quote, it becomes clear that Salome made this request not long before the first Palm Sunday, Last Supper, and Crucifixion.  Perhaps Salome’s motherly instincts told her that the end was approaching and wanted to get her request in before it was too late.  She had probably already heard directly or indirectly the three predictions of the passion.  She had already traveled with Jesus and the apostles long enough, so likely had significant insights.   Although Mark’s version of this story tells that it was James and John themselves who made the request, Matthew’s version is still believable ― and shows the firm devotion of a mother.  Salome realized that a life aligned with Christ was a very good thing, and pushed for it for her sons.

Patroness Of Helicopter Parents?
Traditions tell that after the crucifixion, Salome’s older son James went to evangelize in Spain (before being beheaded by Herod Agrippa) while John took care of Mary (Jesus’ mother) in Ephesus.  It is believed by many that Salome herself went to Veroli, Italy (about 45 miles south of Rome) to share the news of Christ.  There is a basilica in the small city that holds what are believed to be the remains of this Biblical Helicopter Mom.  Saint Salome’s feast day is April 24th and she is the patroness of Veroli, Italy, but could probably be considered a patroness of Helicopter Parents (Moms especially) as well.

St. Salome at Jesus' Empty Tomb
You Can Read More About Saint Salome In The Bible ...
Mathew 20:20-28
Matthew 27:56
Mark 15:40–41
Mark 16:1
Acts 12:2
St. Salome - Roman Martyrology (Martyrologium Romanum)
Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Città del Vaticano

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Brugger, Eva Maria, Ed.  Hammond Atlas of the World.  New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2004.
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Cunial, Hector, Imprimatur.  The New World Dictionary Concordance to the New American Bible.  Charlotte, North Carolina: C.D. Stampley Enterprises, Inc., 1970.
Gardner, Joseph L., Ed.  Who’s Who in the Bible.  Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1994.
Gitlitz, David and Davidson, Linda.  Pilgrimage Road to Santiago.  New York: Saint Martin’s, 2000.
Martyrologium Romanum.  Editio Altera, Civitate Vaticana, 2004.
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Ruffin, Bernard.  The Twelve: The Lives of the Apostles After Calvary.  Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1997.
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Then and Now Bible Map Book.  Necedah, Wisconsin:, Ascension Press of Rose Publishing, Inc., 2003.