My cousin’s wife was in a horrific car crash and unfortunately, lost her life after a week in the hospital. Her daughters posted regular updates on social media asking for prayers, and two of the photos they posted were very powerful for me. The first was my cousin standing over his wife’s hospital bed while praying. The second was a picture of his wife’s hand holding a rosary. At that moment, I thought about how many times my faith has brought me comfort and how glad I am that my mother saw the benefit of giving us a spiritual education. When I look at the picture I remember that in the darkness we can still see light.
When I was little if I had done something wrong my mom would say, “Wait until your father comes home and I tell him what you did.” I would say a prayer to God that she would forget to tell him, and she always did so I found comfort in thinking God was answering my prayers.
When my son was born with a bleeding blood vessel in his brain I prayed fervently during the nine-hour operation. I told God I would love my son so much if he would live. My prayers were answered then as well, but the comfort and peace I felt while praying was important to me.
The picture with the rosary also reminded me of family. Most of my family lives in the North while my immediate family moved to the south. My whole family is Catholic, and it is a big part of my identity. I was surprised when we moved south to hear that many people don’t believe Catholics are Christians. I always believed the word Christian meant you are a believer, but whatever you call your faith this picture describes it for me. The rosary was placed in her hand to give her comfort. It made me feel a connection with family and faith I have been missing.
There have been many other moments of comfort for me. When Catholics are confirmed they pick a patron saint. I was confirmed at 7 and I picked St. Thèrese de Lisieux. I didn’t know anything about her, but years later I found out she was French, (I was a French teacher and love all things French), She was a writer, (I do my best), and she was stubborn, (I am). Her symbol is the rose.
St. Thèrese started to show up in my life at a time when I had some big decisions to make. I was working at a boarding school and as many teachers do, I had said yes too many times and I was overwhelmed with my responsibilities. I also had two teenagers, a three-year-old, and a wonderful husband. Not only was I not spending enough time with any of them, but I also wasn’t taking the time to care for myself. I was exhausted all the time, dizzy and nauseous. I was talking to my sister, (my voice of wisdom) and she said, “Jen, a job is not worth hurting your health, and your family needs more of your time.” She also chose St. Thèrese as her patron saint and we were talking about signs that help you with decisions. She said, “Whenever you see roses that means everything will be o.k. because the rose is a blessing from St. Thèrese.” Almost immediately I started seeing roses. We ordered Chinese one night and there was a large rose on the box, I even saw roses on the toilet paper at Outback. I thought, “O.k. this is what I’m supposed to do.” I quit, but I had to lead a school trip to France that summer. We were in the town of Lisieux and some of the students wanted to go see the beautiful cathedral in the middle of town. I opened the huge doors and the first thing I saw was a sign on the pillar that said, “Trust. Don’t be afraid.” It took my breath away because I had just been worrying about my decision to leave the school, and it felt as if the sign was meant for me. I wandered over to the gift shop and started talking to the store clerk. I started to notice that all the merchandise was of St. Thèrese, so I asked why. The clerk said, “This is her cathedral.” I had no idea I had entered the cathedral of my patron saint and I definitely know I was led there.
The roses have shown up often in my life. We baptized my daughters when the youngest was in fifth grade and the oldest was a senior in college. The priest reached into a large bouquet and pulled out a beautiful rose to sprinkle the water on them. I have watched him do many other baptisms, but I have never seen him use a rose again.
I think faith and what it means to you should be personal. I was uncomfortable when I thought I needed to have the kind of faith where you have to check off all the boxes or you are an outsider. I’m a believer and I do my best to live my life as a decent human who is kind to others.
How is your faith a comfort to you?
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