The Naming

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Bodys Isek Kingelez. Ville Fantôme. 1996. 
The Nigerian artist has left us a form of art that transcends political and aesthetic categories.
Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Montreal
When I was asked to accompany the Jesuit saint’s arm across Canada, various fears and questions flashed across my mind.
Why are there so many Catholics on the nation’s highest court?
Allyson EscobarJuly 18, 2018
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Said with purpose and conviction, the Memorare can remind 20-somethings that we are not alone in our restlessness.
Allyson EscobarJuly 18, 2018