Reporter Niraj Warikoo writes:
Many have stories about the saint that circulate throughout the community. They tell of people who cross the border in search of a better life. On their way, they worry about getting caught or finding enough food and water to make the journey. According to some, St. Toribio appears and helps them as they're crossing.I think this may be the first time the Church has recognized a patron saint assisting people engaged in unlawful activity, (but DU has been unable to confirm that several east coast bishops have been putting forward Ted Kennedy as patron saint of people avoiding charges of negligent homicide). But the new devotion to St. Toribio has also led to what some theologians are calling a clash amongst intercessors.
"He is the patron of many of us," Mely Arredondo of Dearborn said. "There are testimonials of people crossing the border. Sometimes, the Border Patrol is coming to get them and suddenly he appears to help. It's only about an inch long, a sliver of bone encased behind glass in a gold-plated vessel.
It turns out that U.S. Customs and Border Protection falls under the patronage of St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of law enforcement officers. Lately those Catholic officers who’ve always been able to rely on St. Michael to help them catch illegal crossers have been complaining about an unexplained decline in answered prayers. Several report seeing fleeing suspects, the fat ones whom they used to catch easily, suddenly receive strength to outrun their SUVs, while other undocumented persons vanish in a burst of light, instantly reappearing outside Home Depots all ready to go to work.
Attempts by church officials to sponsor “dialogues” between the conflicting constituencies haven’t gone well. Sessions break down when customs officers drink all the coffee, and then insist that St. Michael’s status as an archangel ought to guarantee their requests get priority. On the other side, St. Toribio’s devotees keep disappearing through fire exits, leaving behind empty tuna cans and water jugs.
The solution awaits some kind of comprehensive reform, theologians say. Experts say that for the immediate future Mexican Catholics sneaking into America to make more money or to commit drug executions or home invasions will probably be able to count on St. Toribio’s assistance; and any Catholic border officer who wants to implore St. Michael’s help to catch some of these Catholic Mexicans, or for protection against being shot down by a sadistic hitman whose madre is back in Juarez lighting vigil candles for the success of the cartel is free to do so, but there are no guarantees.
And don’t even ask about who some people have in mind as patron saint for condom users.