Blessed Saint Rita
“You see, they’re like protectors who watch over us.”
Reverend Michael glanced up from his notes at the faces of his Sunday school students. “Does that make sense?”
A small blonde girl in the second row raised her hand.
“Kinda like Jiminy Cricket?”
Michael smiled. “Um, sort of.”
“Or Spiderman?” a boy yelled out.
“What about Batman?” called a voice from the back.
“Spiderman’s better than Batman.”
“Yah ha! He’ll just shoot his web out and get him all sticky then he’ll-“
“Okay, okay,” Michael said, putting up his hands. “We’re getting a little off track. Saints aren’t exactly like superheroes but they can offer you help as long as you ask for intercession. Who knows what intercession is?”
The class stared at him with blank expressions. Michael tossed his note cards onto the desk.
“Okay. Let’s try something else. Who’s ever had a toothache?”
Two boys raised their hands.
“Okay, good,” Michael said, racing over to the chalkboard.
“It wasn’t good,” one boy said. “It hurt really bad.”
“No, no, I didn’t mean the toothache was good, just that…never mind. But you see Osmund,” he quickly wrote the name on the board, “is the patron saint of toothaches.” Michael turned around and beamed.
“You mean he’ll give you a toothache?”
Michael frowned. “No, he won’t give you one, if you get one you can pray to him.”
“And he’ll make it all better?” a girl asked excitedly.
“Well, he might soothe the pain a little. See, that’s what saints do, they’re there to help, you just have to ask them. And there are saints for almost everything. How many of you have ever lost anything?”
Nearly everyone’s hand went up.
“I lost my favorite car,” a boy wearing a bowtie said. “I looked everywhere for it.”
“I lost my frog Bobo,” a girl squeaked. “He was in the refrigerator.”
“My Mom lost my sister at the laundry mat. But we found her,” another girl said glumly.
“Okay,” Michael said. “If you ever lose something you can pray to Anne and she can help you find it.”
All the children turned to look at a brown-haired girl sitting near the door. Michael was confused for a second but then he smiled.
“No, not that Anne, Saint Anne. Okay, now I want everybody to take a minute to think about something. Think about a problem you have or something that’s bothering you. Or maybe it’s your parents or brother or sister or your friends. It could be anything. Okay, anybody have something?”
A red-haired boy with a bowl haircut in the front row raised his hand.
“My cat Waffles is really sick. He’s smelly and he throws up all the time, it’s really gross.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Brian, but believe it or not, there’s a saint for cats. Her name is Gertrude of Nivelles.” He wrote the name on the board. “If you pray to her hopefully Waffles will get better. Who’s next?”
Several hands shot up.
“My Daddy’s a lawyer and he says he’s got a lot of work to do on a big…uh…”
“Case?” Michael suggested.
“Yeah! He’s got a big case soon and he works all the time even past my bedtime. Mom says he’s burning himself. ”
Michael went over to the board and wrote “Mark the Evangelist.” “He’s the patron saint of lawyers. See, there’s one for everything. Anybody else?”
Over the next several minutes Reverend Michael tried to find a saint for everyone. Jasmine was concerned about her father who was in the army (Joseph). Peter was worried about a sick lion at the zoo (Mark the Apostle). Kate wished her new baby brother would stop screaming (Phillip of Zell — for babies, not for noise).
“Okay, is that everybody?”
Michael looked around and his gaze settled on a tall boy with shaggy dark hair sitting in the back row. He was staring out the window with his head resting on his left hand.
“What about you, Zach?”
Michael had been trying to get Zach to participate in class since his family had joined the church about a month earlier but, besides the occasional nod or muttered “I’m not sure,” he would just sit in the back of the room and silently stare out the window.
Zach glanced up at him, a solemn expression on his face. For a second Michael thought he was going to say something but he just shrugged and turned his attention back to the window.
Michael sighed and began walking towards him. He crouched down when he got to his desk and noticed a yellow baseball cap sitting on his lap.
“C’mon, Zach,” he said softly, “don’t you want to find a saint that can help-“ Michael stopped suddenly when he finally saw what Zach was looking at. Across the church parking lot several boys were playing baseball on a neatly-manicured field.
“You know,” Michael said, a lilt of excitement in his voice, “there’s even a patron saint of baseball.”
Zach peered at him a little suspiciously. “No there isn’t.”
“It’s true. Her name is Rita of Cascia.”
“Rita? That’s a girl’s name!”
“The patron saint of baseball is a girl?”
“Yup,” Michael said, walking back to the front of the class. “And from what I understand she had a pretty mean knuckleball.”
A smile crept onto Zach’s face.
“What position do you play, Zach?”
“First base,” Zach said proudly.
Michael nodded. “I played a little first, but they usually put me in right field.”
Zach’s eyes widened. “You played baseball?”
“That’s right, and besides the hitting and fielding, I wasn’t too bad.”
Michael and Zach talked baseball for a little while and soon everyone else chimed in. For the rest of the class the room was filled with loud chatter.
“The patron saint of ping pong?” Michael scratched his head and just at that moment the bell rang. “I’ll have to look into that one, Becky.”
As everyone got up to leave, Reverend Thomas came into the room. All the children said goodbye to him and Michael and when Zach neared the door he smiled bashfully.
“Buy Reverend Michael,” he said, putting his cap on. “See you next week.”
“What did you do?” Thomas asked after Zach had left. “When I teach I can barely get a word out of the boy.”
“Easy,” Michael said as they headed for the door, “I just related the topic to something that interests him.”
“How exactly did you do that?”
“I told him about Saint Rita.”
Thomas thought for a moment and then smiled. “Oh, of course, the patron saint of baseball.”
“Was that a Pittsburgh Pirates hat Zach was wearing?”
Michael nodded. “Yes, I believe it was.”
“Fitting, isn’t it?” Thomas asked as they went down the hallway.
“Rita’s also the saint of lost causes.”
They glanced at each other and grinned.
“Let’s not mention that to Zach,” Michael said as they walked down the steps of the church.
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Portland Fiction Project
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