When I was seven, I was confirmed in the Catholic church. During the process, I somehow missed the memo that I was supposed to pick a patron saint. The truth is that at seven I don’t think I knew the names of any saints. We were standing in a line and one by one people were telling Father Noonan who they had picked for their patron saint. Not only did I not have the name of a saint ready, but I also was terrified of Father Noonan, so at that point, my day was not going well. I tapped the shoulder of the woman in front of me and asked her who she was picking for her patron saint. She said, “St. Theresa.” I know you are not surprised to learn that St. Theresa is now my patron saint.
Many years went by without much mention of my patron saint except that I was excited to find out that my older sister had picked St. Theresa as well and had done some research before picking her. My sister told me about her when I was stressed about the decision to change careers, leaving the school where I was, and trying to make it as a writer. My teaching job was too demanding, and I was so tired that I was becoming nauseous and dizzy. It was time for a change, but the decision was not easy. I was speaking with my sister about it and as an aside mentioned that I had some beautiful roses in the kitchen. That is when she mentioned her patron saint was St. Theresa, and her symbol was the rose. She said anytime you see roses, it means everything will be okay.
As soon as I made my decision to leave my job, I started to see roses everywhere. They were on the side of the Chinese take-out box, and even on the toilet paper in Outback. You might say that the roses were only coincidences, but they were comforting to me. I decided to learn more about my patron saint. She was French, a writer, a Carmelite nun, she died at 24, and she was stubborn. I did not think to find out where she was from in France.
That summer, I took a school trip to France. We were in a small town called Lisieux having an afternoon snack. One of the students asked if we could go see the town’s cathedral, so we walked leisurely to it. I was still nervous about my decision, and when I opened the door, the first thing I saw was a sign that said, “Trust in God, don’t be afraid.” I felt like the message was for me. I wandered over to the gift shop and started talking to the lady in charge. I asked her, “Why is everything in here about St. Thérèse?” She replied, “This is her cathedral.” She then told me everything about my patron saint while I kept thinking that it was strange that I just walked into my patron saint’s cathedral without even knowing it.
Later that summer, I had an encounter with a psychic who asked me who my gardener was. I laughed and told her I did not have a gardener. She told me she saw my house surrounded by roses. That afternoon, I was sitting on the porch when a neighbor passed by on her walk. She called up to me, “Jen, where is the smell of roses coming from? It’s so strong down here.” My husband decided it was a good idea to surround the house with roses, so now my house is surrounded with them.
Roses continue to show up at important times. When my children were born, my husband did not want them to be baptized, but when Kait was thirteen, and Jess was twenty-three, they decided they wanted to be baptized. Instead of being dunked in water, the pastor turned to a large floral display and pulled out a rose, put it in water, and sprinkled both girls with the water. I have watched many baptisms since then, and he has not used a rose again.
I have roses around me always. I may not have known which saint to pick at confirmation, but I know how blessed I am that I chose St. Thérèse.