Sunday, October 15, 2006

My Own Personal Saint

While digging through a box of old (adoptive) family photos, I found a harvest gold photo wallet that belonged to my mother. In it were pictures of me ranging in age from one month to around 12 when I became less compliant, she more disappointed and all hell began to break loose. The last picture wasn't of me. It was a highly romantized illustration of a pretty little boy wearing a plumed hat, a short dark cape and huarache sandals. In one hand is a basket and in the other a staff with...what?...a water gourd? And then I remembered him. That boy. My friend from childhood. My grandmother had an alter to him in her tiny East Los Angeles home. His statue sat on top of a dark wood bureau surrounded by some material and when I visited her, she asked me to light a candle, kneel before him and say a prayer. This grandmother could not speak a word of English but I got the impression that the little boy would protect me. Or maybe that's what he was trying to tell me with his sweet face and kind eyes.

But why was his picture at the end of the photo wallet starring me? Who was he? I couldn't remember. Maybe I never knew his name. It's that way with some of us indifferent Catholics. We pray because we are ordered to, not knowing whether it's to a saint or some obscure version of the Virgin Mary. All I know is I liked this little boy and that I felt good afterward.

It took me two days to find out. I could have figured it out sooner if I'd noticed the microscopic script at the bottom of the illustration: El Santo Nino De Atocha. He is the child Jesus dressed as a small Spanish pilgrim boy with an impeccable reputation as a miracle worker...also widely known as....Patron of the Desamperados or, in English, the "abandoned."

Coincidence? That an adopted child...one probably perceived by her adoptive mother and grandmother as abandoned and not relinquished by her birthmother...had her very own personal saint? I really don't think so. And even though I've lapsed in the most major and fundamental way a Catholic can lapse, I feel a real honest fondness and connection to El Santo Nino de Atocha. In fact, he now gazes at me from the cover of my notebook...right next to the Virgin de Guadelupe. Maybe he will guide me to better writing. He is, after all, a miracle worker. And some days, being adopted is filled with a sense of isolation that only the abandoned can feel.

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