The Novena Story

Reading Time: 4 minutes
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By: Madeleine Sanders, Assistant Director

St. Therese of Lisieux once said, “When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from Heaven. I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth.”

For the past few months, I’ve been praying the novena to St. Therese, with her aforementioned words in mind. To be honest, the main reason I wanted to pray her novena wasn’t that she’s my patron saint or because I absolutely fell in love with her autobiography “Story of a Soul” when I read it last year. Truthfully, I prayed this novena because I wanted a tangible sign (yes, I am absolutely still learning to trust in the unseen as well) while praying it, and I knew Therese was known for granting roses to those who pray to her. I began praying the novena after coming home from college for a long weekend back in October. The idea of praying this novena came about because of my desire for spiritual direction. For Catholics, a spiritual director is largely a person who walks alongside you in your faith journey and helps you to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit in your life. I had two parish priests in mind for direction and asked St. Therese for white roses if I should ask my old parish priest, or red roses my if my current one.

The idea of praying her novena for spiritual direction had been on my mind off and on before October but it wasn’t until I went to daily Mass at my home parish the morning of October 8th, that St. Therese so clearly called me to begin. At daily Mass that day, just a few hours before flying back to D.C., I noticed, as the priest (one of the potential spiritual directors) gave his homily, that, in front of the altar, was a vase of red roses. Something definitely just happened, I thought to myself but didn’t probe into it as I sat on the plane back to Washington. Truthfully it wasn’t until that Tuesday morning when I woke up with a really strong sense of peace, the memory of those red roses from Mass flooded back to me and I knew that peace was my sign to begin the novena.

What sounds like the perfect story was not in any way. I got to around day four of the nine-day novena before getting tired of it. Was I really tired of praying simply because a red rose wasn’t popping up around every corner I turned? Honestly, yes. It was ridiculous to be tired of praying a novena that takes maybe five minutes out of my day, but nonetheless, it was true. Thankfully, my shortcomings and daily unwillingness to be as fervent in my faith as I wish I could do not stand in the way of what God wants for me, or for you. And it never will.

Over the rest of the semester, St. Therese sent several red roses my way. The first and most obvious was at the Columbia Heights metro station in D.C. A man at the top of the escalator was selling bouquets of roses and a sign read “Flowers & Roses, $4.99”. They came in a variety of colors, but the red roses were undoubtedly in abundance.  A second was at the Crystal City metro station. There’s a walkway underneath the station that leads up to the street and, as I was walking through it one day, a single red rose petal was lying on the ground. I picked it up joyfully. A third was in Georgetown which I found while walking with a few friends, trying to decide where to eat lunch. We walked into a restaurant to look at their menu and I noticed a tall vase of red roses on the table in front. Deciding that we didn’t want to eat there, we walked outside and I turned around only to see a woman right behind me carrying a huge bouquet of red roses. It’s easy to think of these roses as nothing more than a coincidence, but when we think of it that way, it doesn’t make sense. As Catholics, we receive those signs by faith, and when we do so, they become miracles.

I share this story because, with these incidences of red roses that St. Therese has sent me this semester, I’ve learned a few fundamental things about our faith: first, we are never alone. How many times have we heard that in our lives? Sure, we’re not alone because there’s always nice people around, a stranger to start a conversation with, or a family member to call if we’re lucky. However, people’s lives change, family members move away, and maybe we find ourselves moving hundreds of miles away from home to start college, but God never changes. St. Teresa of Avila writes, “Everything is passing away…God alone suffices.” And because of that, we are never alone. As we venture through another liturgical year, think about the fact that God has always, and will always be with us. His saints – the “army of good” – as my priest, and now spiritual director, says are right there with us too. They delight in interceding in our prayers. They rejoice in leading us ever closer to Heaven. Let us call on them and place our faith in God trusting that this army of good works every day as our messengers to Heaven. And second, the joy you long for is the same joy God desires to give you. In doing His will, it is joy we will receive. While I had put so much faith and energy in asking a priest for direction, that person wasn’t on God’s mind, and I can promise you that what’s on His mind, is infinitely better for you. He knows you – especially your heart – and He delights in your joy simply because He made you for it. Trust that He wants joy for you and let His saints intercede for you always.

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