Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Patron Saints

When I was just 13 going on 14, we had moved to Washington state from North Dakota. We decided to choose to go to church in Canada in a little border town just 15 minutes from where we lived. When we were settled in and I went to CCD/Sunday School, I came to find out that the diocese of Vancouver, B.C. Canada confirms their CCD students at the end of my school year which was 7th grade. I had six months to prepare and choose a patron saint. I really didn't have much time to consider all options, but I've heard my fellow Catholics say that you don't pick the saint - they pick you. Well, that seemed to be the case with me, for while I was going through books on saints, I came across Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha. She was Native American, a little-known and unusual saint back then for me. My family has deep Chiricahua heritage, as well as influence of Navajo, Hopi, and Lakota Sioux cultures from where we had previously lived and from tribal-registered friends. So I chose St. Kateri because of that book that fell into my hands.

I kept close to her for the rest of my teenage years in prayer and spirituality and even was allowed the privilege to assume her name for my religious name when I became a Carmelite nun. A year after my confirmation, she appeared to me in a dream - a dream that despite trying to awake from I remained in to receive a message. We went through various social settings I was familiar with together, and found myself in a canoe, paddling around and occasionally encountering groups of people (cliques, really). Though I tried to greet them, they ignored me. Several times this happened and St. Kateri turned to me, opening her mouth as if to say something but something stopped her. It was not until returned to the beginning spot where I first encountered her in the dream and we disembarked from the canoe that she did speak. She said "I will be with you always." And so the dream ended. I kept close to her as a religious, but after I developed PTSD from the dysfunctional convent I was in and later left after five and a half years I did my best to forget my association with her name or devotion. So many times I was asked why I chose Kateri as my religious name since I 'wasn't a Native American'. I tried to explain the spiritual bond but it never sank through those nuns' thick skulls. After everything that had happened at the convent and as I tried to recover, I kept trying to believe that allowing her in my life was more of an interest...something stronger than a whim, but not truly a bond. I repeated over and over "Sr. Kateri Marie is dead" to repress/bypass the associated trauma. But we did have a spiritual bond, even if over the past nine years I haven't been as committed as I was initially.

This year, more than ever, I came to appreciate my name saint, St. Genevieve. It had to to with my recovery from PTSD and medieval depictions portraying her with an angel, chasing away a demon with a candle. This held significant importance for me, because my relationship with Jesus as His disciple, bride or friend, centered around Christ the Light of the World. In fact, this was the religious title I took when I was allowed to make my first vows as a nun. Sr. Kateri Marie of Christ the Light. Christmas was my favorite holiday, but Easter meant so much more to me (as it properly should). The rituals of Easter vigil were the highlight of my year, every year - except Easter 2003...but I won't discuss those details now. On St. Genevieve's feast day, January 3, I spent that particular day more than ever considering my vocation, and strongly wishing I still had that Agnus Dei I entered the convent with. It means more to me than ever before, and though I know I gave it as a gift to someone who needed it, I wished I still had it. Fortunately, I was able to obtain another within a few days of her feast this year.

Then I began to think of all my other special patron saints. St. Jude, who has been as reliable as the Blessed Virgin Mary in answering my prayers, I entrusted my technical college training success to with Our Lady of Grace. St. Dymphna, patron of my sanity; St. Philomena, patron of purity and children of Mary; St. Anthony of Padua, St. Rocce, Bl. JP II, St. Raphael the archangel, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, and St. Juan Diego had joined my personal treasury of saints with St. Joseph, St. Therese, my Guardian Angel, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Michael, the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague, and Rose Prince of the Carrier Nation since I returned from the convent. I never knew that I had so many friends. But after my experience in the convent with St. Kateri, I have learned an important lesson: whether they reach out a hand in friendship and patronage first, or you turn to them in your hour of need, never neglect them. More importantly, don't take them for granted. Remember to thank God for sending them into your life, as He does every person you meet. As for our heavenly brothers and sister in Christ, thank them constantly for their presence and support, even if you don't always feel it.

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