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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Calling All Saints


I am not superstitious. I am the granddaughter of Maria Lima Medeiros and the daughter of Lydia Medeiros Souza and they were superstitious. Except they called it being "religious".

They - like all the women in my family and neighborhood - had "pocket rosary beads" which they would whip out at the sound of the siren of an ambulance or a fire truck or police car and "shot arrow prayers" for anyone who might be ill or injured or in trouble.

They had a shelf in the pantry lined with votive candles - of various sizes and colors - which were taken out, in turn and as needed, and lit before a plethora of statues of various saints for various and sundry petitions of prayer. A slip of paper with the "special intention" scrawled on it could be found under the base of the saint.

Every night, before bed, my grandmother and/or mother would gather the children around the particular saint or saints to say the rosary - a decade (or 10 Hail Mary's) to each saint for each petition of prayer - preceded, of course, by the Apostle's Creed, the Our Father, the Glory Be and one of the Sacred Mysteries.We were to meditate on the Sacred Mystery while reciting the Hail Mary.

There was a ritual to these prayer sessions which had to be strictly followed. No joke. This was serious. If anyone messed up, you might piss off the saint and then he or she wouldn't grant the petition and it would be ALL YOUR FAULT.

Oh, and this was done kneeling. In front of the statue. Which was on the bureau in the bedroom.  On the hardwood floor. Which, when you're under 10 years old, is asking a whole lot. If you were lucky, you got the spot on the small carpet by the bed.

If we complained or got figgity, my grandmother would remind us of the "sacrifice" Jesus made for us on the cross, saying, "Oh, your knees hurt, do they? Just imagine how Jesus felt with his HANDS AND FEET NAILED INTO THE CROSS. He did that for YOU, remember. To save you from YOUR SINS, even though you didn't know you were a sinner and didn't even know to ask for it."

Nothing can hush a figgity child better than that image. 

We won't talk about the nightmares and neurosis it later produced. 
It worked in the moment and that's really all that mattered to women who were trying to change the world the best way they knew how.

And, if the prayer petition wasn't answered? Well, my grandmother would NOT be pleased. In fact, she would blow out the votive light and turn the statue of the saint to face the corner, admonishing him or her, "And, you will stay there until you answer my prayer."

That's the thing with saints and prayers. You gotta show 'em who's boss or they just walk all over you.

So, this morning, I lit a small votive candle when I said my prayers. I called on the spirit of my grandmother and those aunts and women who were born before women had the right to vote. 
I called on the spirit of my mother and aunts and those women who were the first in their family to vote. 
I called upon the spirit of the women who dressed in white and called themselves the Suffragettes who fought so hard and sacrificed so much for women to have the civil right to vote.

I called on the spirit of all of those women to be present to us today. 
I thanked them for all that has been, the spiritual gifts of those sacrifices and witnesses that have brought us to this day.  
I asked them to bestow upon us the spirit of reason and wisdom. 
I asked them to drop some knowledge and appreciation of our past - the struggles hard fought and well won - into our present awareness. 
I asked them to make us keenly aware of our identity as Americans so that we might put country over political party, faith before ideology, civility before entitlement, justice before righteousness.

And then, I got up, got washed and dressed, and put on the special pair of Hillary socks which I bought just for today.

I did not do any of this because I am superstitious. 
I did this because I am the granddaughter and daughter and niece and cousin of a whole long line of very religious women.

And, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

Now, go vote, everyone.
The saints are here. 
And, they are watching us and waiting to help us to do the right thing.

Don't let them down. 
It never goes well when you do. 
Just sayin'. 

5 comments:

Linda McMillan said...

I love that, Elizabeth! And I love those socks! You go get 'em.

Nancy said...

The socks are quite wonderful. They would go well with a white pant suit, if one were available. Did you see the video of Susan B. Anthony's grave today? God bless everyone who has been a part of getting us to today. And may God help us stay positive.
Nan

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'm hoping Hillary gets 'em.

Marthe said...

So, which saints failed us? Which statues must be turned to face the wall? If only it were that simple. Perhaps the only hope left is that he really is a fraud who will cave to practicality and do none of the things he has promised simply because a President still isn't a dictator in the US, because the "system" is too "yuge" to be moved by any one man, no matter how delusion that man is (or how high on testosterone supplements and adrenaline) or how loud or essentially useless to the vast majority on the verge of massive buyers remorse. Light as many candles as possible, dear friend ... when the Russians hack the power grid just to mess with their chosen one, the light will be useful.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I am bereft at this very moment. I know I'll get out of it. I know I'll move into action. Right now, I just need to sit with the pain. And, light candles. And hope that the system of "checks and balances" in our government really works to hold that monster in check. That is my hope. That is my prayer.