Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Saint Claimed Me

January Prompt: Saints: Picking Them, Picking Us

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"I picked her and I literally have zero in common with her, except our names. And mine has an E," I told my husband less than a month ago, condescendingly patting my 17-year-old self on the head for my shallow reasons in picking my confirmation saint.

Image borrowed from this video
I went on to describe her life:
  • Lived her childhood through the Revolutionary War
  • Husband's formerly healthy business went underwater
  • Husband died of tuberculosis after suffering through the disease for most of their marriage
  • Family disowned her when she converted
  • Raised five children alone
  • She looks ridiculously depressed in virtually every rendering
  • Eventually started the Sisters of Charity and helped found the current Catholic education system
My saint always depressed me, but what choice did I have? We had the same name, it was easy.

The first image that pops into my head is from a documentary I watched on her at some point in my life. She's in a dark room, kneeling at her husband's bedside, weeping as he passes away. Phew.

My shelf holds at least five books about her, though I knew I'd rather not share her trials. I held her at an arm's length, hoping to avoid more commonalities in my lifetime.

It took a wicked norovirus striking my married household and a PBS video to V8 smack me: She picked me!

Yes, people say that all of the time and I must admit that I've never had a strong dedication to one saint over another. I hardly tap that resource, aside from my constant pleadings for Mary's prayers. I'll blame myself for not seeking ways to answer non-Catholics' digging questions about our relationships with the saints -- instead of having to figure out how to appease the hatahz, I avoided exploring it at all.

Well, I was sitting on the edge of my marriage bed, trying to comfort my ailing husband as he suffered from a ridiculous bug and BOOM. That image of the first American-born saint with her tuberculosis-stricken husband rushed to mind.
I mean, she looks like a ball of fun. Source.

A few days later, I was in class, watching a video about the history of education in America when the era of conception of the Catholic school system played out in front of my eyes. A product of a Catholic high school, it never occurred to me why there would be a Catholic school system, except the obvious: parents wanted their kids to learn Catholic-ness in school.

No, it was because the only free schools for immigrant, Irish (and Italian, Polish, German, etc) children were unabashedly racist against those from the Emerald Isle and extremely anti-Catholic. This is why it's such a big deal that my saint is the patron of Catholic schools: immigrants who wanted their children to learn the faith despite poverty and sincere anti-Catholicism.

She sought me out. I have basically ignored her my entire life as books of her life sat on my shelf, so you can hold onto your arguments of the power of suggestion. She has been far out of my mind for years.

As a recently married grad student currently earning my masters in teaching elementary education and English Language Learners, I'm grateful to finally acknowledge one of the great ladies who has been praying for me throughout my life.
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