A couple weeks ago, my husband told me he was going to Paris to film a leg of a documentary he’s working on about the history of hip-hop and urban fashion. I didn’t think twice about inviting myself to go with. I love Paris, even in the winter, and, more importantly, I had an overdue debt to pay to Saint Rita. A disclaimer: I’m not a Christian. I have a laundry list of issues with the religion—at least the way it’s been manipulated and practiced in the West—and I believe it shackles the soul into submission, guilt, and, worse, into believing that certain groups of people
were are destined to, quite literally, live their lives as slaves. [Side note: Director Steve McQueen dealt with the issue beautifully and directly in his important film, 12 Years A Slave. See it, now. Right now. As in, read the rest of this post later…]
I respect my Christian/Catholic friends and have never challenged their beliefs even though I don’t agree with them. And while I don’t have faith in organized religion in general, I do believe in a Higher Being. God speaks an infinite number of languages, and as an omnipotent spirit, S/He manifests in just as many forms with cool names like Buddha, Ganesh, Olofi, Yahweh, Allah, and so forth, to help us process He/r awesomeness. God is so freaking cool and the ultimate enigma that S/He sometimes enlists helpers in the form of saints, demigods, spiritual guides, our ancestors, and even the forces of nature, to break things down for us measly mortals. And this is where Saint Rita comes in.
The last time I was here, in 2009, I was strolling around the city with my daughter when I found myself suddenly being pulled into the direction of the ancient Saint-Germain-des-Prés church in the sixth arrondissement. I went with the flow like I usually do, letting the spirit take me where it needed me to go. I sat down in one of the the tiny wooden chairs in the center of the church and imagined history happening around me. I noticed groups of people walking around with flowers and written notes in hand and placing them at the feet of different saints.
Inexplicably, I got up and walked over to a saint I had never heard of before Rita of Cascia, and wrote her a note. I asked her for guidance, blessings, and to help me move forward in my professional and personal life. I won’t go into the details but I proceeded to leave the note by her feet and light a candle. Then we left and I went on with life.
While I was looking for a photo from that trip about a year later, I came across a snapshot I took of Saint Rita and it all came back to me: the compulsion, the energy, the feeling I had met a spiritual guide through her…the note. And I remembered that I promised to go back and make her an offering if she worked with me to move things along. Every single petition I made to Saint Rita came to pass. When I began to research her, I learned that she was a real person born Margherita Lotti in Umbria, Italy. She was a survivor of domestic abuse and upon her husband’s murder—her sons died shortly afterward—, began to live quite an amazing, if not surreal, life.
While I’m not down with Catholicism, I respected the way she lived her life and, particularly, her diplomatic skills. And I began to understand why she invited me, if you will, to meet her in Paris. Saint Rita was canonized in 1900 and began to be the intermediary associated with realizing impossible causes, marriage, abuse, and mothers. Mothers. Maybe she chose me, I thought, because I never really had a mother. I was estranged from the woman who birthed me for most of my life. Saint Rita, knowing this, stepped in to be that presence in my life.
Earlier today, I had the good fortune of being able to return to the church, introduce her to my son, and light a candle for her. I didn’t want to say goodbye so I wrote Saint Rita another note and walked away without a word, all the while praying that life will lead me back to her so that I can add more spiritual currency to my karma bank.