Confessions of a Cajun Traiteuse - Patron Saints
Saint Francis de Sales - Patron Saint of Authors
There wasn't a day in my early childhood that my great Grandmere Hirma missed an opportunity to invoke "intercessions" of patron saints to just get us through whatever that day brought.
Today, I'm pretty sure she is somewhere in heaven, pleading my case with Saint Francis de Sales, otherwise I wouldn't get so many "no misspellings found" messages. Still, I'm wondering why his help now? Just where was he when I was up on the stage in 1958, hopelessly without a clue as to how to spell "scepter" in the school spelling bee -- a word I've had no reason to use until today?
In case you don't already know it, Francis de Sales was a writer and he is the patron saint of journalists and writers. He's also the patron saint of the deaf (which also applies to some authors). Hirma was devoted to making me understand at an early age, the virtues and patience of this particular saint.
This was a man who nearly froze to death, trying to convert thousands back to Catholicism, and did so by writing his sermons and slipping under household doors. He resorted to this tactic solely, because no one would open their door to talk to him. Hmmm . . . . maybe he had something there? Wonder if his method would work for driving traffic to hubs?
Extraordinary Everyday People
Those special protectors or guardians over certain aspects of life, elected in the Catholic faith, are called "patron saints" and were chosen by the Pope. In the past, some of them were apostles, angels, and others were martyrs. Today, they are often selected because of special interests, talents, or events that occurred in their lives.
It's believed that a patron saint can intercede on our behalf, through our prayers to God. The exemplary lives of some of the patron saints, are also used as a tool to teach better ways to live and to inspire us.
Patron saints are not just found in the Catholic religion. Other groups and church denominations also have designated patron saints. Even individuals can declare someone a patron saint.
What the World Needs Now
Perhaps today, what the world needs now is Divine intervention. Maybe Hirma knew something -- some of us could use all the prayers we can get, to navigate a world that has become increasingly complicated. In Hirma's world, prayer was very serious business on a grand scale.
Most of the family were under strict orders from Grandpere, to not tell her anything that would "worry" her -- otherwise she'd spend all day in prayer at St. Lawrence. This was problematic for him, as that also meant he'd have to walk to the local diner for his meals.
Hirma had a number of patron saints that she was devoted to, prayed to for "extra" help, and used their lives as teaching tools with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It should be kept in mind, that there's a patron saint for anything you can imagine -- even one for those love/hate days we all have for our computers and the Internet (St. Isodore of Seville).
Some of the less devout in our family, jokingly referred to her devotion to patron saints as "her imaginary friends," which as you can imagine got a few of them in big trouble Cajun style. She may have been old, but she was not hard of hearing. She may have been diminutive in stature, but you knew the full fury of an elderly woman, if you made her mad.
I once got into trouble and found myself hand scrubbing the front porch, simply because I pointed out the fact that to become a patron saint -- you probably had to die first (most are awarded this status way after death). It was the wrong thing to say to my Grandmere. Following the example of a patron saint, sometimes was an exhausting burden when you are only nine years old.
From the Bayou to the Pacific Ocean
I grew up, moved as far away from the Bayou country as anyone could, and didn't give much thought to patron saints on a daily basis. That's not to say that during periods of my life, when I needed "extra help" of the extreme sort, I didn't send out more than a few pleads for Divine intervention.
So, it came as a surprise when snorkeling off the coast of Molokai, on a Prince Kuhio adventure tour -- that I would become interested in a man who was destined to become a Roman Catholic saint.
As I previously mentioned my last Confessions of a Traituese - A Bite of Armadillo, I'd had a very profound childhood experience in visiting the Louisiana Leper Home -- so I was immediately intrigued when the tour operator gave an impromptu speech about Father Damien and the leper colony at Kalaupapa, Molokai.
Controversy Over Father Damien's Sainthood
There is a modest amount of controversy over Father Damien's likely sainthood this next year. There is concern that the current cap on visitors (100 per day) would be raised). The patients (about two dozen) and their supporters are very outspoken about keeping things the way they are and retaining some measure of privacy.
Then, it's also felt that after the last remaining patient dies, that the cap on how many visitors can come per day, stay in place. The lessons from history and the remoteness of the place, wouldn't be the same with hundred more people on a daily basis.
Father Damien To Be Canonized in 2009
Hansen's disease (leprosy) is believed to have been brought to Hawaii by sailors from China. Prior to the discovery of sulfone drugs in the 1940s, the disease was highly contagious, and greatly feared, much like HIV/AIDS is today. In 1866 the first leprosy victims were quarantined in exile to Kalaupapa, Molokai without any thought to shelter or even drinking water.
The early victims of this disease were forcibly dropped off to live in caves, and any shelter they were capable of building from what surrounded them (without tools). Rumor has it, that these early lepers were thrown overboard and made to swim to the island.
Father Damien arrived seven years later to serve these unfortunate souls. More than their spiritual advisor, he built them homes, their church, tended to their wounds, and even their coffins. He was a tireless champion for obtaining needed medical supplies and funding. He would later contract the disease and die from it.
On July 3, 2008 Father Damien, who previously was only the spiritual patron of those with Hansen's Disease, HIV and AIDs patients (and outcasts) -- was raised to the status of becoming a patron saint in 2009. He has also been chosen as The Greatest Belgium throughout Belgian history.
What I particularly liked and found interesting about Father Damien, is that he was and still is controversial, far from a perfect human being, but none-the-less deserving of an example of someone who gave all to the cause that he believed in. Like Sister Hillary, both were examples of hero and heroines, worthy of study and admiration.
One Cajun Traiteuse's View of Patron Saints
I was schooled in both the Catholic faith and the practices of being a Cajun traiteuse. Both were built on the foundation of open-mindedness, faith, and a willingness to concede that sometimes in life (maybe most times in life) we all need some sort of Divine intervention.
One common denominator of all recognized saints is that they were survivors, people who overcame the impossible.
Like them, many of us today, are in need of a miracle. For the faithful, like Hirma, the belief in patron saints is uncomplicated, just follow the example of your chosen patron saint and ask them for help in your prayers.
Calling All Saints!
In today's troubling times, here is a look at a few patron saints we all might consider intervening upon us:
- St. Eligius - Patron saint of gas station workers (and perhaps rising gas prices?)
- St. Gengulf - Patron saint of troubled marriages
- St. Teresa of Avila - Patron saint of those suffering from headaches
- St. Francis of Assisi - Patron saint of merchants, ecology, and animals
- St. Peregrine Lazios - Patron saint of cancer patients
- St. Michael the Archangel - Patron saint of banking, grocers, police, and paratroopers
- St. Jude Thaddaeus - Patron saint of desperate causes
- St. Matthew - Patron saint of bankers
(Note: It does not escape my attention that bankers and banking, have more than their fair share of patron saints).
Fast Facts About Kalaupapa, Molokai
- It's the real deal, the real Hawaii (before tourism became a disease)
- No building on the island is taller than a palm tree
- Has the longest white sand beach in Hawaii
- Does not have a traffic light on the island
- There are no malls
- There are no elevators
- There are no neon lights
- There is a post office
- There is a book store
- There is a fire station
- There is an unused jail
- There is a well staffed and well equipped small hospital
- It is a National Historic Site
- You cannot visit without invitation unless you are on a tour
- You must hike in and out, or ride by mule
- No one under the age of sixteen may visit
Mule Ride -- Only For the Brave Souls
The Patron Saints of My Childhood
As a girl, I especially enjoyed the fact that to be a patron saint -- wasn't one of those things that only boys could aspire to grow up and be. Nor, were females forced to only pray for Divine intercession from men (who may not understand the female perspective). There are many womanly examples of patron saints. Some of them are:
- St. Martha - Patron Saint for waiters and waitresses
- St. Christina - Patron Saint for those with mental handicaps
- St. Kateri Tekakwitha - Patron Saint for people in exile
- St. Alexandra - Patron Saint for defenders of humanity
- St. Alice - Patron Saint of the poor
- St. Alyssa - Patron Saint of the paralyzed
- St. Anna - Patron Saint of women in labor
- St. Hannah - Patron Saint of childless wives
- St. Jennifer - Patron Saint of protection from disasters
- St. Jessica - Patron Saint of abuse victims
- St. Margaret - Patron Saint of pregnant women
- St. Regina - Patron Saint of impoverishment
- St. Rita - Patron Saint of loneliness