Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Unexpected Birthday Gift

It was my birthday weekend, a Saturday afternoon, and I walked to my home parish church, St. Therese of Lisieux on Avenue D in Brooklyn to, as we used to say,  "pay a visit".

Like countless numbers of people from all walks of life, I have a special devotion to St. Therese.  I attended St. Therese of Lisieux School (affectionately called Little Flower School) from kindergarten through eighth grade and later became a school teacher at the very school I attended.  (How this came to be is another coincidence which I'll describe in a separate posting.)    As a little girl I was captivated by a full color holy card given to me by one of the nuns depicting St. Therese cradling a crucifix surrounded by a bouquet of roses of various colors.  She looked beautiful and kind, and even at five years of age, I knew she was real.  

Over the years, I became very much inspired by her "Little Way" whereby ordinary people in the course of their daily lives can find numerous opportunities to grow in holiness by doing small things with great love for God and others.  I felt close to St. Therese, as if she were the sister I never had, and I turned to her often in prayer regardless of how small the matter.  

When I arrived at the church, I noticed in the vestibule there were some items on the table next to the holy water font, some lost and found items, like a single glove, and some things apparently left for people to take.  I saw several paper holy cards of the kind that religious orders send through the mail with requests for donations, a few religious greeting cards and pamphlets, and then, something I did not expect to see:   Story of a Soul, a nice vintage edition of the Autobiography of St. Therese in excellent condition.  I had wanted to read that book for a long time, and I was excited to find it.  But then I had second thoughts.  Should I take it? Could it belong to someone who forgot it in a pew and would be back for it?  It would be nice if God gave me a little sign to let me know what to do.  I took another look inside the book, and there at the bottom of the title page, I found the date St. Therese was canonized by Pope Pius XI:  May 17th, 1925.  Although I was born years later, my birthday is May 17th.  I thought, "What a coincidence, St. Therese was canonized on my birthday."  Or I should say, "I was born on the same month and day that St. Therese was canonized."

The book is on my bookshelf.  One day I'll read it again.  I think of it as a birthday gift from the Little Flower to me.

Joan Virzera

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