April 8, 2010

My Patron Saint: Santa Chiara di Asisi

When I lived in Italy, my language school took weekend cultural excursions every week. And, one weekend, we went to Assisi.

Ordinarily, I paid the fee and visited the relics wherever we went.

But in Assisi, I was overwhelmed by the number of Catholic nuns, many of whom hailed from very poor countries and had saved for years for the privilege of visiting Saint Claire. It just felt wrong for me to get in line with them and try to appreciate the holiness and wonder attributable to her relics when they considered their visit a pilgrimage and mine was a stroke of luck due to a bus that brought me there through no planning or forethought of my own.

Years later, I was sworn in as an attorney at the California Mission of Santa Clara. At the time, I was thankful, emotional, and asked for a blessing on my future career, but I paid no heed to the role of Santa Clara in that day, other than to note that it was the name of the location where the big emotional event occurred.

Today, I found myself back at the Church with time to spare before an event sponsored by the affiliated law school. Much to my surprise, I was compelled to go in, to breathe and cross myself with holy water, to kneel (with my laptop at my side) and say a prayer of thanks for the career blessings I am currently experiencing, and just generally, to say thanks and ask for blessings for life, and love, and the opportunity to grow in the face of everything I've been given, and all of the things that one feels thankful for when in a spontaneous spiritual state.

I left, emotionally buoyant -- as if my trip into the Church was something that was fundamentally correct -- pleased with myself that I had taken the time to do it (an amusing feeling for a self-proclaimed buddhist to feel while walking out of a Catholic Church after performing a Catholic ritual).

And then, on my way out, as I walked to my event, I saw the placard explaining that Mission Santa Clara was the first Californian Mission dedicated to a female saint. All of a sudden, the unexplained reverence and connection I felt in this place felt even more right. I am deeply Californian. My family worked this land for five generations to earn me the right to become a college educated female who didn't have to work the land. And yet, my hobby is the garden. I have found that I am inexorably connected to the land.

The Missions of California are such a part of the story of the California land that it makes sense that I, as a Californian, would feel connected to them. And, to feel a stronger connection to the first female-dedicated mission, well, duh, as a female, that makes sense. But, today, after reading the placard explaining that Mission Santa Clara was the first Mission dedicated to a woman, I finally remembered that I had seen first hand, in her burial grounds, the reverence that Santa Chiara can invoke. And, I recalled that I had so much respect and awe for the love that she invoked, that I abstained in favor of the pilgrims.

So, tonight, I am feeling an indescribable sense of awe for the circle of life and our experiences and how they can weave together to create a wholeness we could not have imagined. Through no planning of my own, I visited her burial grounds long before I knew her Mission would be a part of my career. Upon my return to the US, I opted to live down the street (the El Camino Real) from her Mission. At the beginning of my career, I unknowingly asked for blessings in my career and thanked the powers that be for my luck in a house of worship built in her name. And today, again, when I felt grateful, I walked into that same house of worship and performed ceremonies I haven't felt the need to perform since the last Catholic wedding I attended.

I guess she is my patron saint.

What a great thing to learn.


Arvay said...

Beautiful post!

bt said...