A Sign for a Sign
+JMJ+ I became pregnant with my husband's and my first child in 2010. Call it "mothers intuition" but I knew right away that we were having a boy. We were, indeed, blessed with a beautiful baby boy. We named him Matthew Alexander, a name near and dear to our hearts. “Matthew” was after my oldest brother who had died unexpectedly several years before due to a heart condition, and “Alexander” was after my husband (my brother's best friend). Due to my heart condition, pregnancy can be difficult and there are certain risks for me and so I prayed for the intercession of St. Therese of the Little Flower during those nine months – everything turned out just fine and Matthew and I were perfectly healthy. The day we returned home from the hospital was October 1st (her feast day) and, as we turned into the driveway, we saw there was a single red rose blooming in our garden. Talk about a “welcome home!” In 2012, my husband and I prayed that we would conceive again and I prayed a novena asking for the intercession of my favorite saint once again.
My devotion to St. Therese began when I read her autobiography Story of Soul as a young girl. I was deeply moved by her “Little Way” and, inspired by her, began praying for priests in a special way. I was confirmed my freshman year of high school and, of course, I chose Therese as my Confirmation saint. My Confirmation sponsor was a dear priest friend of my family's and he gifted me a beautiful, life-size statue of St. Therese that once graced the local Polish church of St. Michael in my town. Sadly, along with a few other churches, the church had closed and merged into one large parish community. I'm not sure how many teenage girls have mini shrines containing life-size statues in their room, but I did! I placed a kneeler in front of her and my crucifix and spent countless hours praying before her and Jesus. She was so lifelike - it felt like St. Therese was really in my room.
Therese interceded for me many times especially when, at the age of 15, I was raped by a Catholic priest. A year later, my brother (Matthew) died. I felt that I could relate to Therese in many ways, especially to her "dark night of the soul,” and her earthy devotion and example to Our Lord was a great inspiration to me. The eyes on my statue were what always struck me – they looked so real and, when I spoke to her, I felt she was really there with me listening. She was my friend – not the statue, of course, but Therese herself. She was such a great comfort to me during those tumultuous years! I vividly recall many nights kneeling before her in tears after being awoken by terrible nightmares and memories of my rape. I wept before her, I prayed before her, I would even hug her in moments of complete despair and loneliness. I looked to her the day I was tempted to take my own life and, it was her who reminded me of God's unfailing love and presence. St. Therese has truly looked out for me and aided me especially when I've needed it most. I believe that it was also through her intercession that I was able to forgive my rapist many years later.
As I prayed the Novena Rose prayer in the hopes of conceiving again, I promised that if we were to conceive and if the child was a girl, I would do my best to ensure that she would be named Theresa Rose. My husband, Alex, knew nothing about my novena or my promise to Therese but, at the end of the novena, Alex surprised me with some roses. “When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens,” Therese said before she died in the convent. She loved roses and sometimes, as promised, she literally sends roses in answer to prayers.
My roses came before my pregnancy was confirmed, but I took it as a sign that I was with child and that this time it was a little girl. A short time later, I learned that I was, indeed, pregnant. Alex and I were thrilled about our new addition and, although our two-year-old son was too little to truly understand that he was going to have a sister, he still delighted in being able to kiss my growing belly every night before bed and, as the months went on, he marveled at Mama's moving tummy.
When the ultrasound confirmed that we were having a little girl, talk of names started. I was already imagining a bouncy, curly-haired little Theresa Rose. My husband, on the other hand, wasn't so sure. After all, he hadn't received any such sign and he wanted to feel sure about our child's name. We had chosen our son's name so easily and Alex wanted to feel as sure and excited about our daughter's name as he had felt about Matthew's. He said he would pray and ask for a sign, and I promised to pray that St. Therese would provide him with such a sign. As the months went on, we contemplated some other names and wrote our top three on a whiteboard in our kitchen but, to me, our baby was already Theresa Rose.
Several months into my pregnancy, October arrived and election season fell upon us. A woman stopped to talk to Alex as he raked the lawn one day and she asked if he would consider putting up a sign up in support of a certain political candidate. This led to a lengthy conversation between them. I only came outside to meet her briefly, but she and Alex discussed their shared political views, their Catholic faith, and many other things. My story of being a sex abuse survivor came up somehow as my husband talked about our family. He mentioned that we were expecting our second child but made no mention about whether we were expecting a boy or girl or the names we were considering.
Later that day, we arrived home after running some errands and were surprised to find a small package in the mailbox. Alex opened it to reveal a card with a picture of roses on the front, a DVD - the Leonardo Defilippis movie, "Therese" - and a St. Therese prayer card.
Wow. That was more or less all I could say as I read the letter to my open-mouthed husband. In her letter, the kind woman thanked Alex for their conversation and told him that she had felt so much hope talking to him. She promised to pray for us and said that she had felt compelled to share her favorite saint with us. This woman, of course, had no idea of my already-existing devotion to St. Therese nor was she aware of the fact that my husband had been praying for a direct sign from her.
I'll never forget the look on Alex's face. He was in shock. He walked straight to the whiteboard, crossed off two names, and circled "Theresa Rose." “I guess we got a sign for a sign,” he said, in reference to the political sign that had brought the woman into our lives. St. Therese not only sent me roses (flowers) in answer to my novena, but she sent my family and I our own "Little Rosebud" as we sometimes call her - Theresa Rose, our beautiful daughter who was born on February 8, 2013. Theresa is now 6 years old and is just as spunky, sweet, impulsive, loving, and sensitive as her namesake. I sometimes jokingly tell my husband that maybe we should have named her after a saint who was a little less impulsive and a bit more calm!
St. Therese has been with me throughout the many trials and the many joys of my life, and she never ceases to remind me of God's love and grace. She reminds me that great things can be accomplished through total trust and surrender to God and by bringing our needs to Him in prayer.
"For me prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." - St. Therese of Lisieux
Happy feast day, sweet Therese! Thank you for always bringing my prayers to Jesus. Thank you for your shower of roses!