Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Christine HigginsMay 02, 2005

In a dream Perpetua beheld a bronze ladder
with swords and spears entwined around the sides,
ready to snare her if she dared not look up.
It was the dream of a martyr, ecstatic to be dying
for her beliefs, a woman, barely a woman,
who challenged her father with the word Christian.

On Halloween, when I was eight, and we were
charged by the nuns to dress as our patron saint,
my mother informed me I was named after Christ.
How that disappointed me. I wanted to dress
as St. Elizabeth in a blue veil with a breadbasket of roses,
or blind St. Lucy with eyeballs served up on a silver platter.

How to be like Christ?
A woman who is my patient says: My son is dead,
but before he died, I got to bathe him
head to toe, even his privates, and we weren’t ashamed.

If I were climbing a ladder to heaven,
entwined in those rungs would be
all manner of things I attend to
instead of keeping an eye on my ascent:
my daughter in her eyelet dress, my silk scarves, my TV set.
Disciples of Buddha say if you do not meditate
about death in the morning, you have wasted your morning.
St. Ignatius asks: Do you prefer life over death?

At times I still dislike my name, Christine,
as if I am to be held more accountable than others.
Remember Peter who denied three times?
I’m not brave like Perpetua. I don’t want
the whole damn empire to know
I am anointed, marked with the sign of faith.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

The latest from america

The head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication has defended its use of expelled Jesuit priest Marko Rupnik’s artwork in its official materials.
Colleen DulleJune 21, 2024
A conversation with Rachel L. Swarns, the author of "The 272: The Families Who were Enslaved and Sold to Build The American Catholic Church"
JesuiticalJune 21, 2024
Spanish Jesuit Luis María Roma, who died in 2019, was recently discovered to have abused hundreds of Indigenous girls while serving as a missionary in rural Bolivia, and to have documented his acts in a diary.
Members of Coro y Orquesta Misional San Xavier perform the opera “San Francisco Xavier” at the Church of San Xavier in the town of San Javier, Bolivia, on April 23. 2024.
The opera ‘San Xavier’ provides a glimpse of how Jesuits evangelized with music—a key dimension of the 1986 film “The Mission.”