Friday, March 1, 2013

My Vodou Lenten Meditation - Day 16 of Forty

This morning, I handle the pups, then took off for the Temple. It smelled of the incense I lit yesterday still. I checked everyone's candles, then sat for a while, meditating. Not reciting anything, just allowing my mind to settle and become still. The house creaked its usual sounds. Even the dogs were quiet, a rare moment these days.

I sat looking at St. Anthony on the altar, then glanced over at the Petro group. There stood my two statues of St. Anne De Beaupre.  We recognize her as being syncretized with Gran Simba in this house. I know that's not what every house does, but that's what Gran Simba asked for when She arrived here. And I have good reason for keeping Her here, as well.

St. Anne de Beaupre is the patron saint of the City of Quebec, in Canada. Mom was Canadian French. For their honeymoon, she and Dad did a tour of Quebec city and Niagara Falls (it was the 50s...). The cathedral was one of the pit stops. The cathedral of St. Anne de Beaupre is very special. It is believed that if you climb the stairs on your knees to enter the chapel, the saint cannot refuse your request. As a testament to this fact, the stairs are littered with canes, crutches and other medical prosthetic. At the time, Dad had a fertility issue. Wanting children, I think they went there specifically to ask for a cure. Dad did the staircase on his knees, and I popped out nine months later.

Dad was very devoted to St. Anne. Every Christmas, he painted her portrait on our front storm door's glass.  This is the only surviving shot I have of that front door, but you can kind of see St. Anne behind the snow and greenery.  When he and Mom began attending mass in the small chapel at Sacred Heart University, across from their home, he made an offer of her portrait to the priest, Father Bill Sangiovani - Bill for short..

By that time, Dad was working in stained glass, so he did St. Anne's portrait in his usual color palette and with a great flourish, presented the work to the Bill at the following mass. Bill seemed to lose his usual loquacious tongue. Expecting a madonna in blue and white, instead, Bill found himself staring at a green and orange draped female. A black female, no less. Dad was beaming - after all, he had painted St. Anne as a dark skinned madonna for nearly 30 years, so he didn't understand why Bill was speechless. I guess he forgot to tell Bill that St. Anne de Beaupre is one of the only Black Madonnas of North America!

Anyway, Bill displayed the stained glass portrait front and center on the altar, and my Dad got to beam at his patron saint for the rest of his days when attending mass. We even used her as the centerpiece at Dad's memorial. Bill keeps her in his private office, as much to remember my Dad, as to have his Black Madonna near him.

I smiled at my two statues. One I bought; the other was a serendipitous gift. Both are resplendent in a  green robe with a burnt orange under gown. The same colors as her statue in Quebec. The same colors that my Dad used for his entire life when rendering her image at Christmas. And when I serve Gran Simba, I use Dad's color palette, to remember not just him, but his devotion and his passion for the saint that gave him the child he wanted. Ayibobo.

Oh yeah, my high school art teacher, who gave me the start down this road? Her name? Mrs. Anne de Beaupre. Go figure. Who says we weren't Vodou from the start? Mi di twa Pater, twa Ave Maria....

For anyone interested, St. Anne de Beaupre's shrine, story and testaments can be found here:

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