St. Therese. The saint I always associated with my mother. Although my mother was named after her grandmother, as was Italian tradition, the name handed down came from St. Therese. After reading about her life, I decided to take Therese for my confirmation name.
I don't remember when I started making novenas to St. Therese, but she has been with me for a long time, through good times and bad, uncertainty and life-altering decisions. I look to her for strength, comfort and confirmation. I never leave the house without her hanging around my neck. I ask her for intercession on a regular basis, and my recent trip to Phoenix was no exception.
My family had fl own in for my oldest son's wedding. My youngest son and daughter-in-law, with my grandchildren, and I came from Buff alo. My brother and sister-in-law fl ew in from Detroit. Sadly, my dad made the trip from Florida alone. My mother had really been looking forward to this event, having all of us in one place - a rare occurrence in recent years. Unfortunately, mom passed away suddenly, just a couple of months earlier.
As excited as I was to see my son marry the girl of his dreams, I was sad knowing mom wouldn't be here. Since there was no service at the time of her death, I had planned a special memorial dinner - just the family - to honor mom. I prepared our favorite dishes that mom used to make, and I asked each family member to bring a story about mom to share. I wanted my new daughter-in-law to get to know this amazing woman, and I planned on collecting all of these stories into a book for future generations.
I worried that our "celebration" might put a damper on the excitement of the upcoming wedding. The night before, I prayed my novena to St. Therese, as always. This time, I asked her to lift the veil of sadness and let my mom's love wash over us as we remembered the extraordinary matriarch of our family. I asked for holes in the floor of heaven, so she could watch over us, both for the memorial and the wedding.
The novena, in part, asks St. Therese to "pick for me a rose from the heavenly gardens and send it to me as a message of love."
The next morning, I stepped out of our rented condo; there, on the ground in front of our door, was a shower of white flowers. Less than two feet away, the sidewalk was clear. Although they weren't roses, I felt a tremendous sense of peace wash over me. It was the answer to my prayer. I had witnessed a miracle, and I knew St. Therese would make sure mom was watching. The dinner, and the evening, was everything I had hoped it would be.
I continue to pray to St. Therese, and I recently felt her presence again. A few years ago, I received a Christmas cactus as a gift. It had a few blooms on it, but it hadn't bloomed since that fi rst year. When I moved from Michigan to New York a year ago, I considered throwing it away; but something told me to keep it.
I knew this first Christmas without mom was going to be difficult. In years past, I would call her to share the treasures I found for family members. We would talk a couple of times a week throughout December. This year, I often picked up the phone to call her, only to remind myself that she wasn't there. I talked to her anyway, hoping she was listening.
A few days before Christmas, I noticed several buds on the cactus. On Christmas Eve, I awoke to a cactus in full bloom - white flowers, almost identical to the ones that covered the front porch that day in Arizona. I knew that, once again, St. Therese had heard my heart. I feel blessed to have witnessed the presence and the miracles of St. Therese. I know that she is with me, watching over my family with one arm protectively around my mother.
Read part two of Linda Kennard's column in the March 2020 issue of the Western New York Catholic.