|Publisher:||The Crossroad Publishing Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.37(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.60(d)|
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Shower of Heavenly Roses
Stories of the Intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux
By Elizabeth Ficocelli
The Crossroad Publishing CompanyCopyright © 2004 Elizabeth Ficocelli
All rights reserved.
Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. — Matthew 7:7
* * *
St. Therese, or "Santa Therezinha" (meaning "little Therese" as we fondly call her in Brazil), has had a profound impact on my life. My mother held a special devotion for this saint, calling upon her frequently. One of these times was when I was about to be born, shortly after the start of World War II. The labor was difficult, I was breech, and the doctor told my father he could save the mother but probably not the child. My mother implored St. Therezinha for help, promising that if the baby survived, it would be named after her. The baby lived.
I myself, however, did not come to understand the marvelous intercessions of St. Therezinha until I was an adult diagnosed with a rare type of sarcoma. I went to the United States for surgery and follow-up. Shortly after, there appeared to be a recurrence of the cancer. During this time, I happened to meet some people who were involved in a Theresian ministry. They invited me to one of their meetings, and I was impressed by the spirituality of everyone present. They prayed for me and even assured me that the result of my recent biopsy would be negative — and it was. So I returned to Brazil and formed a Theresian Community, a beautiful organization that has grown strong in number and in good works.
St. Therezinha, my favorite saint, never ceases to amaze me. In addition to sparing my life — twice — I feel she also had much to do with reconciling me with my two children after many years of separation.
My two young sons, at the ages of four and seven, were taken abruptly from my care and my country by their father. He took them to Lebanon, where his family lived. I was devastated. I felt my life had come to an end. After much effort, I obtained "search and arrest" papers and went to Lebanon, only to find he had taken the children to Syria, where my papers were not valid. I spent eight months in Lebanon, trying to contact my husband's family and various authorities, but to no avail. Finally, the threat of a civil war sent me home. I felt defeated, that I would never see my children again, but I did not give up.
Eventually I discovered through a friend I had made during my days in exile that the children spent their holidays in England. This prompted me to go there and hire a private detective to find my boys. It was a difficult process since the English system for entrance into the country requires paperwork only for children over the age of sixteen.
A year later, however, the police located my now exhusband and sons. My joy at seeing my children again quickly turned to chagrin when I realized my ex-husband had filled their heads with lies about me, and they had no desire whatsoever to have anything to do with me. They were now thirteen and fifteen. I decided to enter into a bitter court litigation, which only resulted in the children being declared "wards of the Crown," which meant they could not leave England. I wrote many letters to the boys at school and visited a year later only to be met with complete rejection. I finally was forced to accept the bitter reality of the situation.
It was only many years later, during my illness and the intercession of St. Therezinha, that it occurred to me to bring my heartache to my new-found spiritual friend.
A few years later, I lost my only brother. By one of those "marvelous coincidences," one of his many friends in Canada, where he had traveled extensively, heard the sad news. The friend contacted another friend in Spain, and one beautiful day I received a condolence note from my oldest son, now thirty-six and living in Spain. There were healing words in his message, and I raced to Spain to be received with kisses, hugs, and lots of love.
Inquiring about my younger son, I learned that he lived in Dublin, Ireland, and we phoned and talked for hours daily. On my last day in Spain, I asked my son if he had any pictures of the two brothers and their families together that he could give me. He had only one, and it had been taken in a pub in Dublin. I almost fainted when I saw the picture.
Hanging on the wall, behind my children and their families, was a picture of St. Therezinha, smiling at me. It was as if the camera had been aimed purposely to include her, but of course they had no idea of who she was or, more importantly, of my devotion and fervent prayers for her intercession.
I insisted upon knowing the name of the pub, and I contacted them later. I just had to have their confirmation in writing, although in my heart I already knew the answer. I received an e-mail response to my inquiry if, in fact, the picture on the wall was St. Therese of Lisieux. "Yes," came the e-mail response. "But it is not for sale."
— Gilda Therezinha, Brazil
A Rose in the Snow
I first learned about St. Therese of Lisieux when I was a fourteen-year-old student at a convent boarding school in Westchester, New York. My favorite teacher and mentor, Sister Luke, told me that St. Therese answers our prayers with the sign of a rose. Under Sister Luke's tutelage, I embraced my lapsed Catholic faith with new fervor and was confirmed in the school chapel, taking the name Therese as my Confirmation name.
One snowy winter afternoon, I trailed behind Sister Luke as she walked with a senior student on the school grounds. They were in deep conversation. My eye suddenly spied a single red rose lying on the snow. I remember how very odd it was to see it there. Handing it to Sister Luke, I watched as she and the student blessed themselves, their faces glowing. Later, Sister Luke explained to me that she and the student were discussing the student's calling to enter the convent after graduation. They had been saying a novena to the Little Flower, and my rose was the answer they sought. The student entered the order that following summer.
My devotion to St. Therese continued through my years at school, mostly due to Sister Luke's passionate devotion and my recollection of that special spiritual moment in which I had played a part. After college, however, religion took a backseat for a while as I tried to sort out new feelings and experiences. I eventually found myself turning back to my faith more diligently in an effort to better cope with the challenges of adult life. I recalled the incident in the snow and prayed to St. Therese for guidance.
Soon after, my sister's father-in-law died suddenly. I had told my sister, Margie, about the rose incident, and she was impressed. She decided she would ask St. Therese for a sign that her father-in-law was in heaven. On the evening before the wake, before any visitors or flower deliveries, Margie walked into the funeral home for a private farewell. She discovered in his hands, which were folded peacefully across his chest, a single red rose. No one could explain how it got there. Thereafter, Margie was a true believer.
The next member of our family to pass away was our beloved father. Margie and I prayed for our sign of the rose. When days went by without an answer, we were distraught. Then, one day, as I was walking past a neighborhood flower shop, the owner ran out and handed me a rose. When I asked why he did this his reply was, "because I wanted to." Margie and I slept peacefully that night, knowing Dad was in heaven.
Sadly, a time arrived when I had to ask for a sign for my sister. Margie died of cancer at the age of forty-five. I prayed to St. Therese the night of her death, this time requesting three roses to tell me that Margie was in heaven with our parents. I entered the funeral home early on the first day of her viewing. There were many lovely flowers all around the room where she lay. On a windowsill was a vase containing three yellow roses. Unlike all the other flowers, these had no card.
A later request to the Saint was for a dear friend, Jane, who also died too soon from cancer. Jane was Jewish and had been intrigued by my "rose stories," as she called them, and would often ask me to repeat them to her. When Jane died, I decided this time to ask her directly for the sign of the rose. The evening of her passing, I prayed, "Come on, Jane, send me that rose so I'll know you are in heaven. You know how important this is to me." That evening, while dining at a local restaurant with my husband, I spotted a single rose at the far end of the bar. I asked the restaurant owner, who was a friend of ours, how the rose came to be on the bar and she had no idea. I knew that still another prayer to St. Therese had been answered, this time through my friend Jane.
The greatest loss came with the passing of my dear husband. With heavy heart I waited for my sign, but three months passed without receiving that special rose. Then, one evening, on what would have been our twenty-third wedding anniversary, a close friend took me out to dinner. At the restaurant, the owner seated us and, reaching for a rose from a nearby table, he proceeded to peel off the petals one by one, placing them decoratively on my empty plate. It was such an unusual thing to do, but I was too filled with emotion to be able to ask why he did it. Later I realized that only my wonderful husband could have arranged for such a special presentation. He must have spoken with the Little Flower about giving me the most memorable sign of the rose of all.
— Lucille, New York
A Scent of Roses
In December of 1999, the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux visited Dallas, Texas. At the time, I did not really know much about this saint at all. However, my daughter Tracy called me that month to tell me that she and her boyfriend's mother were going to visit the relics. She wanted to know: would I like to come?
Although I did not have a devotion to the Little Flower, I certainly had a good cause for which to seek spiritual help. My oldest daughter, Natalie, had suffered the loss of two premature babies. The first, a little boy named Austin William, was born at just twenty-two weeks. The second, a little girl named Taylor Nicole, arrived in the world at twenty-four weeks. Both babies were too young to survive. In my grief, I told myself that God must have needed some little angels in heaven. My heart broke for Natalie, who wanted so badly to have a baby.
When Tracy invited me to go to see the relics, I told her I would accompany her. My thought was to seek St. Therese's intercession. Tracy was planning to go late at night to avoid the anticipated crowds. When 11:00 p.m. arrived, I was already in bed and too tired to go. I called my daughter and told her to go without me, but to be sure to ask St. Therese to help Natalie get the baby she so desperately desired.
With that, I drifted off to sleep. At about two in the morning, I woke up to a strange and very pungent smell. I realized it was the scent of roses. I couldn't imagine where the smell was coming from, as there were no flowers in my room, or in my house for that matter. I was intrigued, but managed to go back to sleep.
In the morning, when I woke, I recalled the mysterious scent during the night and wondered if perhaps I had been dreaming. I was still thinking about it when my daughter Tracy came over to me to tell me what an amazing experience it was to visit the relics. She told me that despite the late hour, the place was packed. She had to wait in a very long line. When she finally got up to the reliquary, it was about two in the morning. Tracy was bubbling over with enthusiasm, telling me all about the Little Flower, about the promise of roses, and about how some people claim to actually smell roses as a sign that St. Therese has heard their prayers!
At this news, I was completely dumbfounded. I proceeded to tell my daughter how I had awakened at 2:00 a.m. to the distinct smell of roses. We looked at each other in amazement. We both felt something really important must have happened. That day, I decided I had to go to thank St. Therese in person for hearing our prayer. I called a friend, and we went to see her relics that evening. It was an awesome experience, so beautiful and so moving. From that day on, all my worries about Natalie were gone. I was completely at peace and knew with great confidence that my daughter would one day have her cherished baby.
In April 2001, Natalie delivered a healthy seven-pound baby boy named Travis. He is my constant reminder of St. Therese's miracle, and I thank this beloved saint and the Lord for responding to my prayers.
Ever since that experience, I call on St. Therese to find she never lets me down. Ten days after my grandson was born, my husband was diagnosed with lung and lymphatic cancer. The doctors said he only had a 15 percent chance of making it through the year. Once again, I implored St. Therese for her intercession and, as a result, my husband has been cancer free now for two years.
I love the Little Flower so dearly. It's funny, I feel like I have known her for a long time although, in reality, it has not been very long at all. I am very close to her spiritually and always feel her presence by my side. She will always have my utmost devotion.
— Diana, Texas
A Place of My Own
My father was battling with the return of cancer in the fall of 1997. For several months, he alternated between being hospitalized and living with family members since he wasn't well enough to stay at his own apartment by himself. During this trying time, I took care of his day-to-day affairs by paying his bills, checking on his apartment, and sending the rent check to his landlord each month.
Sadly, Dad passed away on December 27, 1997, without ever returning to his home. I contacted his landlord to let him know and paid one additional month's rent to allow my sisters and me a few weeks' time to clean out the apartment.
Since I had been living back at home with my mother and stepfather at the time of my father's death, the thought occurred to me of taking over my father's apartment myself. Then I decided that perhaps a smarter idea would be to look for a home to purchase, instead of renting. I hadn't been thinking along those lines before this, nor had I been saving up any money for a down payment on a house.
Nonetheless, one cold January weekend only a few weeks after my father's death, I searched the classifieds and started going to open houses. After a few weeks of house hunting, I walked into a condominium and knew immediately that this was the place for me. It was frigid outside and the trees were bare, but as I stood in the kitchen looking out the window, I saw this image of myself living in this house, with the trees outside in full bloom and a warm, spring breeze blowing in the open window. This image only lasted a minute, but it was so real that I felt sure this place would be mine before long.
However, the reality of purchasing my first home as a single woman hit me later that day. As I crunched the numbers, trying to figure out if I could afford the monthly mortgage and utility payments, fear and doubt started to creep in. Each night I prayed to God for guidance, and also directed prayers to my father's spirit and to St. Therese of Lisieux. Although I no longer considered myself a practicing Catholic, I still felt a connection to the saint I had learned about as a child and whose name I shared (my middle name is Therese). I had been taught that if you prayed to St. Therese, the Little Flower of Jesus, she would send you a rose as a sign of her intercession.
So I prayed for some indication that I would be okay financially if I made the decision to purchase this home. My answers came to me in several dramatic ways not long after.
I worked at a public library at the time, and walked into the back room where new books were prepared to go out to the shelves for loan. My eye immediately went to a tall book on the cart, where the word "Therese" appeared in bold, black letters against the white spine. I picked up the book and found that it was about my favorite saint, Therese of Lisieux. I talked to my co-worker who was busy processing those books, and she told me that the librarians hadn't even purchased that one. It was donated to the library by one of our patrons just that week! I took this to be an answer from the Little Flower in response to my prayers. It was such a beautiful coffee-table book that I ended up buying a copy for myself.
Excerpted from Shower of Heavenly Roses by Elizabeth Ficocelli. Copyright © 2004 Elizabeth Ficocelli. Excerpted by permission of The Crossroad Publishing Company.
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