On becoming a saint
Sainthood is like social media: a handful of megastars dominate the conversation while everybody else makes do with a handful of followers. Occasionally, someone gets a big break.
2020 is the year of Saint Corona. She's been waiting 1,800 years for this moment and here she is, our new unlikely patron saint, this forever sixteen-year old girl, promoted to worldwide overseer of The Great Pandemic. Don’t dismiss her. She's working hard at this.
I was first introduced to the power of the saints by Richard G, a colleague at a Catholic University where we both worked. When the University failed in its negotiation to acquire the last piece of property needed to complete its master plan, Richard took it upon himself to invoke St. Joseph, patron saint of real estate. A small statue was buried near the property, prayers were said and soon after the property owner called with a new proposal.
I was impressed. Richard explained that the saints never fail to answer a genuine request. Intention is what matters, and you need to be clear about what you are asking for. Faith is helpful but not strictly necessary; anyone can receive assistance. It’s also helpful to have an image of the saint. Special shops can provide you with statues, engraved medals and those little cards to keep in your wallet.
Corona is so new, there are no images for her, which is what prompted me to play my small part in our communal healing. Plenty of people are sewing masks, I am sewing Saint Coronas. Each piece is hand embroidered with a specific request: patience, safety, health, protection.
No one knows what the real Corona looked liked. Corona wasn’t even her real name but we know she died a terrible death, torn apart between two trees. Crown and trees must be included in any representation of Corona.
I asked my friend Allison to become the face of Saint Corona. Artists have always used models to depict saints but hardly anyone thinks they’ll get the call to pose for the task. It’s flattering but tricky. Beatitude is not the stuff of Instagram. And are you supposed to be an extra good person to be worthy of modeling for a saint?
It’s tricky to be an artist in this time of hardship. There is the sense that I am doodling at the margins while the important battles are raging elsewhere. How can art be relevant when so many people suffer from health issues, anxiety, financial losses?
I was nervous about asking Allison to pose for this project. Allison is a mental health professional. Every day, day after day after day, she sits in her apartment through hours of video calls comforting and counseling her clients. She is putting up with isolation and long work hours to make the world just a little better. Most nights, she is spent.
I told her she could refuse but to my relief and surprise, she said "yes" to this project. Didn't even hesitate. "Do your thing," she said.
It was exactly the blessing I was looking for, the small wonder of being accepted for who I am. I like to think it was Corona speaking through Allison and why not? I will take my saints where I can find them. Here. Now.