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Saint Stalkers Revisited

On October 1, the Church celebrates the feast day of one of my favorite saints, St. Therese of Lisieux. A little over a year ago, I wrote a reflection on our original blog space about St. Therese as one of my personal saint stalkers. In the spirit of celebrating her feast day tomorrow, I thought it might be a good time to revisit and update the post. The original post is reproduced in its entirety below.
Have you ever had a saint stalker? A member of the recognized communion of saints who just keeps popping up in your life? You probably have -- you just might not have noticed it. I think I’ve had a few saint stalkers in my day, but the one who is currently trying to get my attention and help save my soul is none other than St. Therese of Lisieux. She’s been hard at work with me for nearly 4 years now. Yes, you read that correctly: Four. Long. Years. (Edit: Since this was written in 2016, it's been 5 years now.)

When did I first realize that St. Therese was saint stalking me? It’s been a more recent revelation to me, honestly. I’ve had the notion of saints stalking around in the past – in fact, I think one of my first true saint stalkers was St. Francis de Sales. I’d read some things by him… when I would look up inspirational quotes, he would appear… Fr. Mark gave out a de Sales quote at an ACT meeting he held with the kids when I was youth minister… the list goes on. So, noticing these types of repetitive instances is important to realizing one of the saints is trying to get your attention. 

The realization that St. Therese was lurking in the shadows set in for me, however, a few weeks ago. Having moved to Maryland for a new job, I’ve been trying to get into a routine of life that makes me comfortable – and it certainly hasn’t been easy. (Edit: It's still a struggle most days.) At the end of the academic year, I was able to do some traveling and went to Schenectady, NY with my family to visit my aunts in my dad’s hometown. 

On our visit, we took my niece and nephew to Central Park – a giant park in the middle of Schenectady where my brother and I spent our childhood summers playing on the outer space themed play structures. Nearby, there’s a community rose garden. So, my sister-in-law, Lisa, and I walked over to the rose garden with my niece, and in a passing comment, Lisa explained, “It’s so interesting how you pray for something and things happen.” This intrigued me, as before my brother married Lisa in 2011, he told me she was a part of what he called the “God-squad,” but she and I had never really had discussions about faith. I’m not sure why. “I just finished a novena to St. Therese, and look at what she’s given me,” she continued, motioning towards the beautiful, newly bloomed roses in the garden. Our conversation abruptly ended as my brother and nephew joined us and we took some family photos. But a seed had been planted. 

Our trip ended, and I found myself back in Maryland for a few days. Struggling spiritually, I went to my bookshelf where I have several books – secular and spiritual reading – and mindlessly grabbed one:Everything is Grace - The Life and Way of Therese of Lisieux. I didn’t even remember buying this book, nor had I ever read it – but it spoke to me that day, beckoned me to grab it instead of the other titles sitting close by, so I figured I needed to give it a shot.

Having made that decision, I was instantly reminded of St. Therese popping into my life 3 and a half years prior, when my mother was dying from cancer. At her bedside just before she was moved to Hospice, we prayed the Chaplet to St. Therese with some people from our church. I'd never heard of the chaplet before, but it includes the short prayer: “St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, Patroness of Missions, Pray for us!” followed by 24 Glory Be’s – one for each year that Therese lived. My mother only lived another week after praying the Chaplet together, and I struggled to get through her sudden death. While grappling with my mother’s death, I tried reading Story of a Soul – St. Therese’s autobiography – but just couldn’t get in to the book. I gave up, defeated. But Therese didn’t give up on me.

She waited, perhaps until that moment in the rose garden with my sister-in-law, to re-enter my life. Having read Everything is Grace over the past few weeks, I’ve learned that St. Therese, too, lost her mother to cancer in 1877. Her mother’s death crushed Therese’s spirit, to the point that she spent yea 
rs trying to redefine herself by overcoming the feeling of abandonment, the fear of being alone, and the confusing doubts and crippling self-consciousness that losing a parent often causes. Reading about Therese and praying for her intercession these past few weeks has brought a sense of peace to me that I’ve needed since my mother passed away.

Therese continued to make her stalking known to me as I visited friends in Athens. The friend I stayed with was, unbeknownst to me, making a retreat with Therese and as I entered her apartment, I immediately saw a photo of the saint staring back at me from the side table. Another friend asked me to proof a document he was working on – and of course, the first footnote credited one of St. Therese’s writings.

I get it, Therese. Thanks.

I am still struggling. But everyone struggles. I’ve learned that even Therese struggled to her final days. But the struggles we encounter are part of what makes us human. I’m excited to continue to learn more about Therese’s Little Way and her prayer life. I’m excited to learn why she was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II and why she is referred to as the Doctor of Merciful Love. And I’m thrilled to pray for her intercession as I continue this journey. I encourage you, too, to pay closer attention to your surroundings – maybe you have a saint stalking you!

In the year or so since I first posted this reflection, St. Therese took a slight back seat as life presented more ups and downs and got busier. But one of the great things about saint stalkers, I think, is that they are incredibly patient with us. They'll wait around for us to acknowledge them and are okay with sort of being forgotten from time to time. They have a lasting presence with us and emerge again when we need them most. 

Other saints have made their presence known to me since I've tried to make it a point to be more observant of their presence. For example, while the summer of 2016 was all about St. Therese, this past summer St. Rita, one of the patron saints of impossible causes, wiggled her way into my consciousness and stood elbow-to-elbow with Therese, encouraging me to not lose hope when life seems to present impossible circumstances. 

In knowing that the communion of saints can provide us with constant companionship, may we always remember to turn to them in our times of need! And since her feast day is tomorrow and she is the focus of this post, may we pray for St. Therese's intercession through her Little Way:
I love your people, Lord. Help me to love them more!
I reflect you to the world, Lord. Help me to reflect you more clearly!
I rely on you, Lord. Help me to rely on you more!
I accept your will, Lord. Help me to accept your will every day.
I try to forgive, Lord. Help me to forgive 70 times 7 times!
I am humble, Lord. Give me more humility!
I see you, Lord. Help me to see you more!
I trust you, Lord. Help me to trust you more!
I love you, Lord. Help me to love you more!
From the Pray More Novenas novena to St. Therese.

St. Therese, the Little Flower, pray for us!

Contributed by Mary Catherine Kennedy. Mary Catherine is the Social Media Coordinator and Web Director for our community. She is also a Communication professor at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. 


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