Pierre Toussaint, a freed black slave who died in the 1850s... is perhaps the current leading American candidate for sainthood. At the Vatican body that oversees canonizations, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, there are hundreds of active files, some centuries old, but Toussaint's cause stands a better-than-average chance of success.
[M]ore than anything, Toussaint's high standing at the Vatican owes to his “highly impressive” story, says the Rev. Paolo Molinari, a Jesuit who works in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In 1787, Toussaint emigrated from Haiti to New York City in the company of his owner, who died not long after. Rather than bolt, Toussaint remained with his owner's widow, supporting her and her children by taking up hairdressing as a trade. Soon, Manhattan society women began seeking him out [boldface mine], and he made a small fortune, which he put into building an orphanage, taking in the homeless, and funding local parishes. “He made a lot of money, but he did not spend his money for anything else but to help the people in need, be they black or white,” said Molinari, who is Toussaint's postulator--the potential saint's chief advocate at the Vatican. “He had love even for the people who treated black people in an awful way.”
-- The Vatican Loves a Good Story, or what it takes to become a saint today
“He made a lot of money, but he did not spend his money for anything else but to help the people in need, be they black or white.” By that token, Ricky Reyes, too, should be a candidate for sainthood half a century from now. Except he's been living openly with another man (more than two decades now, and counting--who's to say that isn't real love, aver?), which would, if ever, send all those sclerotic bishops into spastic frenzy once again.
Of course, not all hairdressers are gay. Jon Peters was a hairdresser before he became a big-shot Hollywood producer--and Barbra Streisand's beau. Warren Beatty played it straight--and sexy--in Shampoo. But precisely because straight hairdressers appear to be more the exception than the rule, the question arises: Was Toussaint straight or gay? His bio is silent on this. He appeared never to have married, but did he have a girlfriend or a figure of romantic interest at any point in his life?
I'm half-wishing he was gay, because think of the instant empowerment that would give parloristas all over the world when someone like them is officially declared a saint--and by the mighty institution yet that even now is using its persuasive might to continue stigmatizing and marginalizing them and people of their kind. They'd have their very own patron saint--and Ricky Reyes could then install flamboyant altars to Pierre Toussaint in all his branches, complete with a recycled tagline: “Santa na ang lolah mo noh!”
Reminds me of this swishy middle-aged priest in our province whom everyone assumed to be gay--but nobody dared confirm, of course. One Sunday, during his sermon, he offered a most interesting take on purgatory--the halfway place where souls supposedly go to for purification before they are admitted into heaven.
“An purgatoryo bagan parlor ina. Kukurungon mun-a kita bag-o kita makakadto sa langit,” he said. Loosely--“Think of purgatory as a beauty parlor, where we'll get our perm first before we go to heaven.”
My priest friends, all of them straight, dubbed it the “Theology of the Beauty Parlor”--the dull equivalent of the kafatids' more colorful verdict: Pasok sa banga! Or, in a word, confeermed.