We celebrate All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic holiday. In the past, it rivaled and even overshadowed Halloween with parades of children dressed as patron saints or their saintly namesakes. When I was a little girl, my parish celebrated the saints’ parade. I only remember taking part once. I was St. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. My mom made my costume. I felt a connection to St. Elizabeth for years so much that I chose her as my confirmation saint and alluded to her story in my fiction writing in later years. When I became a mother, I reflected on this holiday and how I might celebrate it with my daughter.
Our neighborhood parish still celebrates a saints’ parade. The nuns at my parish organize the parade every year and often commission seamstresses to make various costumes. You can, however, create your own costumes and that is what we have done. I had always wanted M to participate when she got older. We talked about it for a few years and did not follow through. Then we finally decided she would do it. The first year she participated, she paid tribute to our heritage. M was St Rose of Lima. She dressed as a Dominican nun wearing a crown of roses instead of the traditional (and gorier) crown of thorns.
Last year, she asked to be the Virgen of Guadalupe, again paying homage to our culture and her Mexican roots.
This year, we wanted to continue honoring our culture. We chose St. Kateri.
In creating her saints’ costumes, I do have to make time to research and also set aside money for expenses. I have spent between $50 and $60 for a few years. The first year, I purchased the nun’s habit. She already had the floral headband. Last year, I ordered a royal blue cape and ironed on the stars. It was difficult to find a plain pink nightgown. I also purchased some black ribbon for the maternity sash. This year, I wanted to keep the costume simple. We chose a soft brown shift dress with black leggings, gold sandals, and a bead necklace, all from M’s closet. Grandma did her braids. I already have a beautiful tree branch crucifix that hangs in our living room. The one thing we purchased was the silk tiger lily. This year, I only spent $10 since she had everything else.
All Saints has become a special holiday in our home. It’s a beautiful tradition celebrating our faith. It allows us to take joy in who we are.
At one point in my life, I seriously considered becoming a lay member of a monastic community. I wanted to leave the world of work and personal life, if only seasonally, and focus on contemplation, prayer, and learning more about my faith. Inspired by poet and author Kathleen Norris, I specifically explored how I might become a Benedictine oblate. Many events and people drew me away from this plan; however, some of what I learned sustained me through life’s challenges. How wonderful to know that Saint Benedict will be rejoining my daily litany.
Saint Benedict, apart from being a founding father of Western monasticism, is also the patron saint of gall bladder disease and inflammatory disease. Two birds with one stone, pun absolutely intended.
One of the stories told about him is that some of the monks, newly introduced to him and his Rule, decided to rebel and attempted to poison him during Mass. Benedict survived because the chalice broke and a raven stole the bread before Communion.
The surgery I will have in the summer is elective; in the words of my new surgeon, I’m “not on fire.” Still it is reassuring to know that I can literally call on Saint Benedict.
M and I have said nightly prayers since her infancy. This past year, we began reciting the Rosary daiily on commutes and long drives. We also pray various versions of litanies, some short and some long, but also a daily or nightly practice. In light of my recent illness, I have discovered Saint Agatha, a Sicilian martyr tortured to death by a vengeful man she rejected. Due to her most infamous punishments, she is now the patron saint of breast cancer and breast disease.
The two paintings depict the wounds that are often associated, sometimes implicitly, in art featuring St. Agatha. One of the most famous is “Saint Peter Healing Saint Agatha,” a 1614 painting by Giovanni LanFranco that shows a traditional St. Peter tending to Saint Agatha’s wound, a gash over her right breast. The modern painting depicts Agatha’s wound as tradition has often indicated, a complete mastectomy on the right.
While some may argue that these images are distasteful and grim(and I won’t deny that many of the stories of martyrs are violent and dark), our tradition holds that we can seek solace in knowing that other people of our faith endured trials and tribulations. I personally sought out a patron saint with whom to connect during this experience with breast disease. It was one of my many ways I have faced this challenge with strength and faith.
Early morning Friday, August 3rd. I dreamt about B. Just woke up. B and I were hanging in T’s classroom on the first day of school with C.C., whom I haven’t seen in years but he looked like a kid and A.A from Drama. I recognized his bad teeth and bad skin. There was a hospital bed in the corner of the room. We joked about it because every guy I know has those same sheets (Star Wars?) including my ex Nice Guy. B said he had those, his brother did, and T’s brother did. He said he was going to lie down. T. was outside where kids were playing tug of war. I told T. I was excited she was going to yell at the kids. I went back in the room. 6 kids were there, A in the corner, C. at a desk with another boy, and 3 boys at the back table. B and I were talking, I don’t remember about what, but there was an understanding I was with someone, I assume Soldier. A. threw a cigarette at the couch where I was sitting with B. B. was on my left. I said, “Hey buddy you’re looking really good.” His hair had grown back. He was still very thin but he wasn’t jaundiced or pale. I touched his arm. It was bony. His clavicle was prominent. He said he had a “pacer,” a white machine strapped to his waist. “But you look good. Do you need to lie down?” I pointed at the bed. Sparks flew. “What the hell was that?” The couch had lit up. C. and his friend were playing with a chemistry set. Like cartoon TNT, everything started lighting on fire. “Brett, get the fire extinguisher.” He did but it fell apart in his hands, a box full of white powder, not foam. I grabbed it as the fire spread. I sprayed the chemistry set, the couch, everything else. I put the fire out as T. walked in with her class. I made myself wake up by saying aloud, “I was dreaming about B.” I wanted to make sure I noted it.
I miss B. It was a good dream because he finally came to me and we talked and everything was ok. At one point in my conversation with him, I think I referred to my significant other as “my husband.”
6something Feeling better. B. is here. He came back to me. He was smiling. We were laughing. Everything was ok again, even with the little fire. For some reason, we had conversation about Monica Lewinsky, Chandra Levy, and Gary Condit. Bizarre. Going back to sleep. Maybe I’ll find B. again.
St. Dymphna is the patron saint of the mentally ill(and mental health workers, mental hospitals, those with epilepsy, and victims of sexual abuse.) Her image is that of a princess holding a devil on a chain leash. I was drawn to this mini-retablo in Albuquerque recently. I liked the image, particularly of the tiny captive devil.
Her legend dates back to medieval legend. According to various versions of the story, Dymphna was the beautiful daughter of a widowed lecherous pagan king. When she was a teenager, he made advances on her so she fled to Belgium with the help of a priest. Her father tracked her down and beheaded her. Not the most heartwarming story and not particularly compassionate towards the mentally ill.
Still, it is one more saint to whom to address prayers.