Thursday, January 14, 2010

A New York Saint for Haiti

When New York was hit with the plague, Pierre risked his life and nursed the sick and dying without regard to his own safety. His sister Rosalie said, "You think of everyone but yourself. Now that you are free, you are still acting like a white man's slave".

Pierre answered, "I have never felt I am a slave to any man or woman but I am a servant of the Almighty God who made us all. When one of His children is in need, I am glad to be His slave".

O great Toussaint! How you so exactly captured the essence of our God - the God who humbled Himself to become a slave for our sake. 

-- From the blog Roman Christendom

The first time I went to confession after my abortion (three years after, to be exact) was also the first time I had been to confession at all since making my First Penance as a child.

The priest was a kindly man with a Brooklyn Italian accent that made me feel right at home, and he prescribed ten rosaries for my penance.  "Is that all?"  I gasped.  "Whaddya want?" he replied.  "That I should tell you to do the Stations of the Cross on your knees?"  I immediately went to the little gift shop at the church and bought a rosary, and that weekend said my penance on the Peter Pan Bus to Boston, where I was going to visit a friend.  I still have that rosary; it is my favorite one, and the only one I have that's never broken.

All this took place at Saint Peter's Church, at the corner of Barclay and Church Streets in lower Manhattan (kitty-corner from where the World Trade Center used to be), the oldest Catholic parish in both New York City and New York State.  I had sneaked across the street into the confessional on my lunch break from my bread gig.  Soon I was attending daily Mass at the charming little Greek revival church, whose noonday congregation of businessmen exuded an ethos of faith the likes of which I'd never encountered.

Saint Peter's was also the church where Venerable Pierre Toussaint -- Haitian native, freed slave, hairdresser, phllanthropist, and New Yorker -- attended daily Mass. There was a stir among black activists and their supporters a few years back when the late Cardinal O'Connor opened Toussaint's cause for canonization, according to this 1992 article in the New York Times (which raises the bar for anti-Catholicism somewhat even for that paper).  There can be no doubt, however, that Venerable Pierre Toussaint was a man of extraordinary holiness, as the above-linked blog article attests.

As Venerable Pierre was a native of Haiti, I am invoking his intercession for the devastated victims of the earthquake in that country, and I invite you to join me.

UPDATE:, a family-owned and -run company, has created a beautiful Venerable Pierre Toussaint prayer card, and is donating 100% of its sales of the card to relief in Haiti.


Enbrethiliel said...


You're not the only one to have made this connection recently, Pentimento.

Here is a great post about putting Haiti in context through Venerable Pierre Toussaint:

Dymphna said...

I never liked him.

Pentimento said...

Why not, Dymphna?