Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Arkansas Saint...to be

I made a pilgrimage today….Two and a half hours east of my hometown of Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, to a tiny spot down a narrow, tree lined road in the middle of vast soybean and rice fields …I found the somewhat abandoned Catholic Church that I was looking for …Saint Martha’s and her tiny cemetery around back….the only witnesses of the day were the bees that lived in the church…

My pilgrimage was to plant red roses at the grave of a nun, some say was Sister Agnes Hart but, the monument states Mother Agnes Hart, who was born in Kentucky in 1797 and moved to Arkansas in 1838. She served with the Sisters of Loretto and came to the area with three other nuns to start the first Catholic school in Arkansas. Mother Agnes wrote desperate letters home in hope that help was on its way...She and the children were starving and getting sick...Sadly, help didn’t arrive in time and Mother Agnes Hart died of malaria a little over a year later in 1839, surrounded by the other nuns and the children whom she taught and loved…

Mother Agnes was first buried in a cemetery along the river...then thirty years later, as the river flooded and tried to change its course, Mother Agnes’ friends and students disinterred her body to move it to higher ground...when they finally reached her body they found that it had miraculously been perfectly preserved and looked as if she had just died that very day! Remember, this is thirty years after her death and embalming was never done…Bodies which have not decomposed are a sign of miraculous intervention, according to Roman Catholic Church….

Why would I, a stranger, make a pilgrimage to a grave of a woman who died some one hundred and twenty years before my birth? Because I wanted to pay homage to a soon to be Saint….Yes, a Saint in the Holy Catholic Church…This little know nun... in a grave in a tiny cemetery hidden within the vast grain fields of South West Arkansas... A full blown Saint, as in the likes of St Francis of Assisi, Saint Andrew and Saint Jude.

Yesterday, all of the television stations in the state were abuzz with the news that the Catholic Diocese of Arkansas was petitioning the Vatican to make Mother Agnes Hart a Saint. …I just had to find her; I wanted to plant the roses, rub the stone that her students and friends so lovingly erected for her in 1885…offer a prayer for her sainthood and request an intervention for myself.

Word has it that there is also a member of the church who was healed of cancer after asking for Mother Agnes to intervene. In order for the Vatican to canonize an individual as a saint, two miracles would need to be confirmed. One already has and I hope that the other will soon.

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