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You can find just about any saint adorning a grave or cemetery plot. Saint Michael may be the most popular after the Virgin Mary. Saint Francis's deceased wards include both humans and animals. The choice of saint is up to the person who commissions the monument. If you want to get a good feel for who these people are, carry a good handbook of Saint biographies.

Consider as you explore why a particular saint appears where you find it. For example, a statue of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha -- "the Lily of the Mohawks" -- stands in Mission Dolores Cemetery (see the picture at the top left). The inscription on her base dedicates her to "our faithful Indians". Those erecting the statue meant her as an inspiration: native Americans are expected to look to her as a model for religious behavior and the rest of us are to take pride in the universal appeal of the Catholic Christian tradition. Thinking beyond this, however, suggests an interesting purblindness: What is this Mohawk, who was to the Ohlone what the Spanish were to the Hungarians, doing here? One could write a long essay about how this monument betrays the way Euro-Americans intellectually homogenize native Americans (Mohawk=Ohlone) and turn them into possessions (think about "our Faithful Indians").

Photo: Mission Dolores Cemetery, San Francisco, California
Copyright 1997 by Joel GAzis-SAx