The Brown Scapular: A Carmelite Tradition


When I consecrated myself to Mary earlier this year, I received a brown scapular that had been blessed by a priest. I’d seen scapulars before and heard of the brown one in particular but didn’t really know what it meant to wear one until my consecration. Now, I wear it every day.

(And on a side note: Women’s clothes are not made for people who wear scapulars. Every day, I’m finding tops or dresses I can’t wear anymore because the cut makes the scapular look like bra straps, which isn’t exactly the modest look I want to have. Any fashion designers out there want to start a line just for women who wear scapulars?)


What Is the Brown Scapular?

The brown scapular is a devotion worn under clothing as a way of telling Mary, “I am yours.” According to the Sisters of Carmel, it was given to Carmelite St. Simon Stock by Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1251 in Aylesford, England. She told him, “This shall be a privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire,” and the Church has since declared that lay Catholics can also wear the scapular.

The blessings given to people wearing the scapular have three conditions, because the scapular isn’t some magical talisman but a sign of real devotion: first, that they always wear it; second, that they are chaste (according to the Church’s definition of chastity based on whether they are single or married); and third, that they recite the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary everyday, observe the fasts of the Church and abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or (with the permission of a priest) say five decades of the rosary each day or substitute another good work.

Who Is Our Lady of Mount Carmel?

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is one of Mary’s many titles. Mount Carmel is a mountain range in Israel where Elijah, according to the Catholic News Agency, “successfully challenged the priests of Baal and won the people to the true God.” The Carmelite Order, which has always had a special devotion to Mary, was founded there in the 1200s.

Wearing the scapular is making a promise to Our Lady of Mount Carmel to imitate her humility, chastity, and devotion to Jesus.

What Is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

The Little Office consists of morning and evening prayers made up of psalms, hymns, and scripture and other readings. I use the Laudate app to say it every day. It helps to guide my prayer, particularly my devotion to Mary, and to understand her role in the Church and in our salvation. Also, especially since I gave up Facebook scrolling for Lent, it’s a much better way to spend the first and last moments of my day than using social media.

Do you wear the brown scapular? How has it helped shape your relationship with God?

Totus Tuus: All Yours, Mary!


Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, creator of the “33 Days to Morning Glory” Marian consecration retreat and book, says that “the act of consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary marks the beginning of a gloriously new day, a new dawn, a brand new morning in one’s spiritual journey. It’s a fresh start, and it changes everything.”

I consecrated myself last Sunday, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, and while I can’t truthfully say that I feel like “everything” has changed yet, I do feel like I have started “a brand new morning” in my spiritual journey. Every morning, I renew my consecration, saying, at the very least, “totus tuus” – “totally yours.” This phrase was St. Pope John Paul II’s motto, which he used to describe his consecration to Mary.

“Totus tuus” sounds scary at first – giving your life, your will, to Mary to do with as God wills. And it was a little scary at first. But as a person with anxiety, it’s now strangely comforting. All those things about my life that I can’t control, that used to scare me because I couldn’t control them? Totus tuus, Mary. I trust that what God has planned for me is what will happen. I trust that Mary’s spouse, the Holy Spirit (yep, her spouse! how cool is that?), will guide me when I don’t know which path to take. I just pray that as time passes, I remain as committed to my consecration and as trusting in that relationship as I am now.

Of course, consecration goes beyond myself, and that’s why I was particularly inspired by Fr. Gaitley’s discussion of St. Mother Teresa and her consecration. (Mother Teresa was all one of my childhood heroes and now one of my favorite saints.) As one of the people at the foot of the cross who heard Jesus say, “I thirst,” Mother Teresa said that our Mother “knows how real, how deep is His longing for you and for the poor,” and her role, then, “is to bring you face to face … with the love in the Heart of Jesus crucified.”

They say there’s no earthly love greater than the love of a mother for her child, so imagine how much greater Mary’s love must be for her child, who is the Son of God! And, as Mother Teresa said, Mary knows how much it hurts Christ to see His children suffering, to see them sinning, to not have them always close to Him. And so by consecrating myself to Mary, I am reminded of my childhood admiration of Mother Teresa’s total dedication to the poor, and I am committing myself to evangelization and to loving everyone on God’s earth who needs it. Through prayer and service, I must be one of Mary’s servants who helps to quench the thirst of her Son.

On Consecration Day, our group met for dinner and fellowship. My boyfriend, ever supportive and also happy to share our friend’s excellent cooking, came with me. We talked, we prayed, we laughed, and we consecrated ourselves to God through Mary. We received blessed brown scapulars and miraculous medals, and we ate great food (hey, you have to nourish your body as well as your soul, right?).

During the car ride afterward, my boyfriend told me how happy he was that he came with me that evening and that our group went through this process (he pointed out that it was worth it just to have brought me back to Reconciliation, and I agree). When he dropped me off at home, I walked into my apartment with a huge smile on my face, grateful for the group of friends I had celebrated with that evening, the boyfriend who was so supportive of my spiritual journey, and the Mother who is always working to bring her children closer to God.

Returning to Reconciliation


“Confession is an act of honesty and courage – an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God” (Pope John Paul II).

I was terrified at my first Reconciliation. As a socially anxious seven-year-old, the idea of having to tell my sins to a priest I didn’t really know was panic-inducing. But I did it, because I was seven, and that’s what you do in second-grade CCD.

I hadn’t gone since, because at 28, Confession was still frightening. And, after all, I hadn’t killed anyone. I hadn’t committed adultery. Did I really need to go?

Over the past year, as I’ve been getting more involved in church and the local young adult group, I’ve been thinking about Confession a lot. Or, rather, the Holy Spirit has been hinting to me about it a lot. But seeing a therapist felt exhausting enough – going to Confession still seemed like an insurmountable obstacle.

Yesterday, though, I did it. I’d already been thinking that Lent was a good time to go again, and then I found out that it’s strongly recommended to go to Confession before consecrating yourself in Marian Consecration. Today is Consecration Day, so yesterday, I went to my parish, St. Raphael, during the weekly Reconciliation time. I sat, trying to read St. Teresa of Avila’s “The Interior Castle” while I waited. (I had a C.S. Lewis book in my purse, but in my heightened level of anxiety, I felt like it would be bad to read a Protestant book while waiting for Confession. I know. Silly.

Another side note: Trying to read “The Interior Castle” while you’re anxious is not an easy task.)

Finally, it was my turn. I prayed to the Holy Spirit, asking for guidance and a good Confession. I had my journal with me, where I had done something of an Examination of Conscience, listing the sins that I wanted to confess. Up until yesterday, I’d thought I’d sit face-to-face with the priest, but I ended up kneeling behind the screen. My journal stayed in my purse, and I just spoke to the priest, telling him it had been 21 years since my first – and last – Confession, and then confessing to him.

Y’all, Reconciliation is my new favorite thing. The grace, the compassion, the mercy that I experienced was beautiful. I never understood before why Catholics do the whole Confession thing. After all, why can’t we just ask God directly for forgiveness? But I think that’s missing the point. First of all, how many of us truly take the time to consider our sins and then ask for forgiveness? I told myself I did that, but I didn’t. Confession gives us the chance to truly examine our consciences and apologize to God. The priest offers guidance that we can’t find on our own, and then God actually speaks through him, telling us that He forgives us, that He has infinite mercy for us. That’s pretty incredible.

Why wouldn’t Catholics do the whole Confession thing?

Celebrating Our Spiritual Mentors


January is National Mentoring Month. Since I’m an editor for a company in the training industry, I’ve been writing and editing a lot about the topic this month. It started me thinking about mentors outside of work and, specifically, in the Church. Who are my spiritual mentors?

I can group them into three categories: the people I have personal relationships with, the saints I have (long-distance) personal relationships with, and the people I look up to but don’t know. (I’m stretching the definition of the word “mentor” here, but bear with me.)

So, who are the people in my life I can consider spiritual mentors? My friends in the Raleigh Catholic Young Adults Group, for sure. They inspire me and have helped enrich my prayer life ever since I got involved in the group last year. I also have to include a shout-out to my Confirmation sponsor, a friend of my mom’s whom I don’t see often enough anymore but who made a big impact on my spiritual development in high school, meeting with me once a week to help me prepare.

Then there are the saints that I pray (way not often enough) to, including:

St. Therese of Lisieux, my Confirmation saint, who inspired this blog. It may seem strange to those who know me well that St. Therese was my Confirmation saint and someone I consider a spiritual mentor. After all, I would be a terrible cloistered nun. I am chatty (actually, now that I think about, it, occasional times of forced silence would probably be good for me), impatient, and don’t spend enough time listening to God (or other people, for that matter). But that’s part of the reason why it’s important for me to pray for St. Therese’s intervention – because she knows the struggle and knows the rewards that come from working through it. Too often, I want my will to be done, not God’s. St. Therese reminds me that trusting in God’s will instead will actually be more rewarding.

St. Mother Teresa, one of my childhood heroes. A saint I can remember seeing on TV! I read about Mother Teresa when I was growing up and wanted that same drive to help others. Again, it’s a virtue I have to pray for, because I’m as selfish as any other human. But, I do tend to be driven by purpose, and if I pray that my purpose is aligned with God’s, maybe, with His help, I can make some difference in other people’s lives. (Coincidentally – actually, probably not – Mother Teresa chose her name after St. Therese!)

St. Joseph, the foster father of our God. I feel like St. Joseph gets downplayed a lot in popular culture. Mary, people tend to get – or at least talk about. And I’m not saying that’s wrong, because, duh. Mother of God. But St. Joseph also said “yes.” He also made huge sacrifices to do the will of God. And he loved Mary and Jesus with everything he had – just like we should. I started praying to St. Joseph for certain special intercessions a few years ago, and he’s always been there for me.

Finally, there are spiritual leaders still with us, whom I do not know personally but whom I look up to a great deal. Pope Francis, of course. His humility has inspired me since I saw him bow to the crowds in his first appearance as pope. I pray that he continues to bring people back to the Church as long as God lets us have him here on Earth.

Then there’s Immaculée Ilibagiza, author of “Left to Tell.” She survived the Rwandan genocide hidden for about three months in a bathroom with seven other women, praying the rosary constantly. The grace she showed in the midst of terrible suffering – and the incredible forgiveness and compassion she’s demonstrated since then – are virtues to aspire to, for sure.

Finally, there’s the Catholic bloggers and podcasters I’ve started following very recently, who share their stories with others with great honesty and vulnerability. My current favorite is Leah Darrow, whom I’ve been gushing about to everyone I know since I read her book (“The Other Side of Beauty”) over Christmas. (Seriously, read her book. It’s great.)

I definitely have great mentors in my professional life, whom I look to for guidance and whom I’ve developed wonderful relationships with. But, ultimately, it’s the spiritual guidance I receive from the people I’ve described here who (I hope!) will help me, one day, get to Heaven.

Now, that’s a mentor.

Who are your spiritual mentors? Share in the comments!

Communicating With Truth and Dignity


I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I really wish turning off the news in the 21st century was as easy as turning off a TV channel. But with social media, email newsletters, podcasts, and of course the good old fashioned TV and radio, it feels impossible sometimes. (Not to mention irresponsible – it’s important to be aware, after all.)

But sometimes, keeping up with current events is depressing. “And they lived happily ever after” does not seem to be the ending of any piece of journalism. And now, in the era of “fake news,” it’s not just depressing, but it’s untrustworthy, as well.

As a writer, this seriously bums me out. I love reading a good piece of writing, but not when it’s about a war, or another case of sexual assault, or how Iceland has almost “eradicated” Down syndrome through abortion. (That one really got to me.) I also hate the idea that other writers can’t be trusted, that so many so-called professionals are lying or stretching the truth just to get some clicks.

That’s why when I saw that Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day focused on truth in media, I felt that same excitement that I feel sometimes during a really timely homily – like it was meant just for me. (Self-centered, maybe. But that’s the gift of a truly great piece of writing or speech – its truth speaks to many people – personally.)

Pope Francis called for “rediscovering the dignity of journalism and the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth.” How beautiful is that? As a writer, I have a personal responsibility to communicate the truth. Whether I’m writing an article for my company on corporate training or a blog post here about my prayer life, I am responsible for what I write, and it must be the truth.

That doesn’t just mean I can’t write lies. For Christians, Pope Francis says, speaking (and writing) the truth goes beyond that:

“Truth involves our whole life. In the Bible, it carries with it the sense of support, solidity, and trust, as implied by the root ‘aman, the source of our liturgical expression Amen. Truth is something you can lean on, so as not to fall. In this relational sense, the only truly reliable and trustworthy One – the One on whom we can count – is the living God. Hence, Jesus can say: ‘I am the truth’ (Jn 14:6). We discover and rediscover the truth when we experience it within ourselves in the loyalty and trustworthiness of the One who loves us. This alone can liberate us: ‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32).”

As writers, and as readers (most of us are at least the latter), Pope Francis is calling us to “promote a journalism of peace.” Even when the story does not seem peaceful – which is all too often the case – our focus should be on the people involved. That’s why at work, I am renewing my dedication to making people’s work lives better through my writing, and here on this blog, I am renewing my dedication to prayerfully share a more spiritual truth. I’ll continue to speak for those who have no voice, like the unborn, and I will, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, be one of the voices that serve as an example of the “alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence.”

As Pope Francis ends his message, so I end this blog post: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Why We Need Pro-Life Prayer


Yesterday, I attended NC Right to Life’s annual prayer breakfast with a small group of friends from the Raleigh Catholic young adults group. Several of us were even given the opportunity to help lead a prayer, which was a moving experience in itself.

I’ve heard of the breakfast, which is followed by a march, but I’ve never attended. I’ve always been hesitant about faith-based pro-life initiatives; after all, isn’t the best way to persuade pro-choice people using logic and science (the same types of arguments they purport to use for their own cause), rather than the religion that many of them don’t believe in?

But, I realized, that’s not really the point of a prayer breakfast, or many other faith-based pro-life programs. Abortion is one of the greatest – if not the greatest – evils in the world. We’re up against people who (mostly) believe that what they’re doing is good. We’re up against, in the U.S. at least, roughly half the population.

Up against this kind of evil – the kind that so many people don’t even know about, the kind that is supported by elected officials, and the kind that kills more than 1,700 children per day  (and that’s just in the U.S.) – what is the answer?

Yes, the answer is science, and logic, and policymaking, and conversations with pro-choice people. But against this kind of evil, there’s one thing that we can’t win without, and that’s prayer.

So, no, the prayer breakfast likely didn’t change any minds about abortion, but it surely convinced some people (me included) to get more involved in the movement, and it most definitely, most importantly, raised a lot of voices in prayer, pleading for protection for the unborn, for people at risk of physician-assisted suicide, for women and couples facing crisis pregnancies – in short, for a country, and a world, full of despair and death.

In the face of such despair and death, hope and prayer are the best weapons we have. So prayer breakfasts, and pro-life rosary groups, and other faith-based initiatives are important. In fact, I’d say they’re essential – the only things that will make abortion not only illegal but unthinkable.

Next weekend, St. Raphael, my parish here in Raleigh, is starting a nine-month spiritual adoption, a type of prayer where you commit to praying each day for an unborn child in danger of abortion. I’ll be signing up and keeping you posted here on my blog and on my Twitter @everyday_roses on the experience – and the development of the child I spiritually adopt!

For more information about the pro-life movement, here are some of my favorite resources:

There Are No Imposters


I think I first heard the term “imposter syndrome” a couple of years ago. It was an “aha!” moment when I was able to put a word to a feeling – and know that I wasn’t alone.

Imposter syndrome is the feeling, all evidence to the contrary, that success is due to luck, that accolades and praise are misplaced, and that you are unworthy of the good things that come your way. It’s typically discussed in the context of career development, but I tend to experience it even more in my personal life.

When developing any type of new relationship – be it with a new friend, colleague, mentor, mentee, or (as I discovered last year) boyfriend – I’m always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. “Surely,” I think, “they’ll realize soon that I’m not who I seem, and then they won’t want to have this relationship with me anymore.”

I experienced imposter syndrome in the extreme in the early days (months, really) of my relationship with my boyfriend. Partly because he was my first boyfriend, partly because of my social anxiety and partly because this is just something I struggle with, I constantly felt sure he’d realize his mistake and dump me immediately.

One day, he said something that’s stuck with me: “You’re worth it. Not because I think you are, but just because you’re a child of God.”

My worth isn’t dependent on my own self-concept (thank goodness), or on what my boyfriend or my friends or my coworkers think of me. It’s intrinsic. It’s inherent in being human. The second God created me, I had value.

To God, there’s no such thing as an imposter.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God,” wrote St. Paul, “and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). How can a temple of God be an imposter? How can anything the Spirit of God dwells in be a fraud? It can’t.

My imposter syndrome isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s probably something I’ll wrestle with my whole life. But at least I have this reminder to pull me back when I start to go down the “I’m not worthy road” – that I am worthy, and that my worth isn’t tied to any of the exterior metrics I give it – my appearance, my work, my social status – but rather to a single intrinsic measure: my existence as a child of God.

What Is Total Consecration?


I attended the Raleigh Catholic Young Adult Total Consecration to Mary kickoff potluck on Saturday with almost no expectations beyond dinner and fellowship. I bought the book we’re using for our retreat, “33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration” (Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC), skimmed the introduction and googled “consecration to Mary,” but I still was unsure what exactly I was getting myself into.

A lot of thoughts and several emotions flickered through me during the kickoff. First, of course, great food! And I’m looking forward to getting to know my fellow participants better. But of the consecration itself, I felt both excitement and trepidation. After all, “consecration” is a heavy word, and I don’t take promises – especially those made to Mary and Jesus – lightly. Was I ready?

Total Consecration to Mary

“In the simplest of terms,” according to the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, “by means of Marian consecration, we give ourselves to Mary to be formed into the image of her Son, Jesus.” St. Louis de Montfort, who literally wrote the book on Marian consecration, said that it was “the surest, easiest, and most perfect means” to become a saint.

I’m sold.

Fr. Gaitley, a Marian Father, wrote “33 Days to Morning Glory” to simplify the process of consecration. Through reading, pondering and meeting (“RPM”), we will learn about the consecration through the teachings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Mother Teresa, and St. John Paul II.

Am I ready for this? Actually, the group leaders’ invitation to join the consecration came at an auspicious time for me. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been taking a spiritual journey through fellowship and prayer that, I hope, is bringing me closer to Jesus. Especially recently, with the launch of this blog, conversations I’ve had with friends and my boyfriend, and other events in my life, I feel ready to make a larger commitment to Christ, similar to the one I made at my Confirmation.

It won’t be easy. I already feel the temptations of giving up, of feeling that maybe this isn’t the right decision for me – but I know that’s not God talking to me, and I’m not listening to the most evil of naysayers. Instead, I’m looking forward to solidifying the promise we all make as Christians, to follow Christ, and to becoming closer to Him through His mother.

Stay tuned! I’m excited to share my journey with you.

Spiritual New Year’s Resolutions


It’s that time of year again: the time when we make well-intentioned resolutions that most of us never follow through on. (We all know what the road to hell is paved with, right?)

I am the queen of resolutions, especially at the new year. Like most people, I love the idea of a blank slate, of reflection, of goal-setting and of becoming a better person. Also like most people, I have trouble on the follow-through.

So this year, I’m approaching New Year’s resolutions differently. I’m still making them; I can’t resist. But I’m doing it deliberately, strategically, and – most importantly – prayerfully.

Bruce Weinstein, CEO of the Institute for High-Character Leadership, recently wrote a Forbes column on New Year’s resolutions in which he made three recommendations:

  1. Be specific. Don’t just say you’re going to get organized in 2018; say what it means for you to be organized.
  2. Be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure and then frustration and shame.
  3. Be strategic. Determine what success will look like for each of your resolutions.

“We have an ethical obligation to treat people with care and respect,” Weinstein concludes. “Too often we act as though this obligation applies only to how we treat other people. This makes no sense. You’re just as deserving of your care as your colleagues, supervisor, family members and friends are. Coming up with a [sic] clear, attainable goals and creating a plan to reach them are some of the best ways we can care for ourselves well next year and beyond.”

Erin Lowrey, a lifestyle blogger, shared her own guidelines for meaningful New Year’s resolutions in a guest blog post for Blessed Is She, detailing how to set goals that will “clean your spirit,” “clean your space,” and “clean your slate.” I won’t reiterate these guidelines here; I recommend reading them for yourself. But they inspired me to make my own resolutions for how to live more prayerfully and contemplatively in 2018.

1. Maintain the Everyday Roses blog.

Historically, I am as terrible at keeping my own blog as I am at making resolutions. I have started several blogs over the years, only to have them falter after one or two posts, when I run out of things to say or simply become too lazy to update them. With Everyday Roses, however, I am inspired by the excellent Catholic bloggers already out there building a community of the faithful, and I am motivated by my own desire to become a more contemplative, mindful, prayerful person. If I can help other people become closer to God by sharing how I am becoming closer to God, then I should put in the effort.

So, in the interest of being specific, realistic and strategic, here’s how I’m going to accomplish this goal: I resolve to publish a new blog post – even if it’s not perfect or even as good as I’d like it to be – at least every other week in 2018. To help accomplish this goal, before the end of the year, I will start creating a list of topics so I can’t use writer’s block as an excuse.

2. Learn to pray the rosary.

I have tried many times to pray the rosary, but I always get distracted and then frustrated with myself for not experiencing the joy that it brings so many people. I know I’m doing it wrong. Recently, I had a conversation with my boyfriend about the rosary, and he suggested starting small – three Hail Marys a day. I can do that. I’m also going to read about the rosary to learn about its purpose and how that whole meditation thing works. My goal is to be able to really, fully pray the rosary by the end of 2018.

Along those lines, I am joining a group of Raleigh Catholic young adults who are consecrating themselves to Mary in January.

3. Read the Bible.

I love to read. As an editor, I do it professionally. So why haven’t I really dived into the Bible?

I think mostly, it’s because I don’t know where to start. The Bible is a honkin’ long book. Do you start with Genesis? The Gospels? Do you just open it and pick a random verse? And how do you know what everything means? In Mass, you have the priest to explain what you just heard in a homily. What if I misunderstand something? What if I just end up confused?

Clearly, just “reading the Bible” is an insufficient resolution for me. So I’m going to learn how to read the Bible instead. I’ve recently discovered some great podcasters and bloggers who teach Catholics about the Bible, and I’m going to probe the internet for some guidance and advice in the next couple of days so I can get off on the right foot.

I’ll use that information to guide my specific resolution, to determine how much I’ll read every night.

4. Journal.

This resolution pops up every year for me, and every year, I fail. But last year, with the support of my therapist, I started a different type of journal. I list a few things I’m grateful for, I list some specific prayer intentions, and, if needed, I use some reframing techniques I learned in cognitive-behavioral therapy to help with my anxiety. It’s short, it’s simple, it’s doable.

I’m going to do it at least every other day this year.

5. Pray without ceasing.

Every time I hear this verse, “pray without ceasing,” I am inspired. Somehow, perhaps counterintuitively, praying without ceasing seems to me much less overwhelming than setting aside a time every day to pray. Certainly, in 2018, I am going to try to spend more time in silence, prayer and meditation – it’s something that is terrifying and that, again, I’m going to take my boyfriend’s advice to “start slow” for. But if prayer is a part of every hour of every day, then I will be in constant contact with God. My behavior will be more inspired by the Holy Spirit. I’ll be more grateful for the blessings I encounter every day. In short, Jesus and I will become BFFs.

Now, that’s a resolution to aim for.

Fibromyalgia and the Little Way: The Beginning of a Journey


A lot happened when I was 13. First of all, I was 13 – not an easy year. I started high school, throwing myself into marching band and honors classes with enthusiasm. And I had my second and final year of Confirmation prep – which, as a socially anxious teenager who still didn’t really know anyone in my class, with whom I was expected to share my faith and go on retreat, was not easy.

However, soon after I turned 13, early in ninth grade, I started feeling sick. Mono was going around my school, and I was tired and mopey, so I thought that’s what it was. The test came back negative, though – and so did every other test, even as I didn’t get better. I moved to home-bound instruction, taking all of my classes except band online. I was tired, in constant pain, and depressed. Finally, after a few months, I was sent to a rheumatologist, who diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I started getting treated and feeling better. I still felt tired and sore all the time – a state that I now knew was permanent – but it was manageable, and I was able slowly to go back to school and resume my normal life.

Throughout this ordeal, I was deciding who to pick for my Confirmation saint. At first, I thought of St. Luke, because he is a writer and also the patron saint of doctors (both careers I thought I wanted to get into at the time). Then I read a children’s adaptation of St. Therese’s “Story of a Soul.” It spoke to me so much that I then read the full autobiography and then decided to pick Therese as my Confirmation name.

I’m not sure at the time that I could have articulated what exactly happened to me when I read St. Therese’s words. I knew that the way she loved God – fully, joyfully, and like a child – was how I wanted to love God. But I think, in hindsight, her philosophy of suffering and the Little Way was particularly relevant to my life that year. I didn’t have a reason for my own pain – and even once I had a medical reason, that wasn’t an existential reason. So I really believe that reading “Story of a Soul” was a gift from God given exactly when I needed it the most. I can remember sitting in the car on a drive to a band competition (I couldn’t ride in the bus that year because of my pain) and thinking, “what I am feeling right now, I’m offering up to God.” It was comforting to know that at least something productive could come out of my own pain – something bigger than myself and something small, that I could give without even doing anything other than accepting pain and praying. “Love lives only by sacrifice,” she wrote, “and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love, the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering.”

When I was confirmed that year, I was so happy. I felt like I really had a grasp of my faith and how the gifts of the Holy Spirit would guide me through my life. I wish I could say that every day in the 14 years that have passed since then, I have remembered what I learned from St. Therese. That I offered up all of my pain to God, that I let go of anxieties because I had faith in Him, that I forgave everyone their trespasses and begged forgiveness for all of mine, that I made myself small and focused on doing small acts of kindness with great love.

I can’t say that truthfully, though. Like most people, I have gone through ups and downs in my faith. I have been impatient when I haven’t gotten what I wanted from God, and I have forgotten to say thank you when I get what I needed instead. I am impatient with His children, as well – so impatient and so, so unlike St. Therese.

But when I think back to her life and what she taught us, I can get back in touch with the person who has most guided me through my journey as a Christian. I can use the example of St. Therese to make sense of suffering and use it to become closer to God, just like she did. I can draw on faith, not my own, limited reserves of patience, to love my neighbor as myself. I can realize that while I can’t solve world hunger, I can help one person at a time with a word or a simple act of love. And maybe, then, someday, I will earn a place in Heaven, and I can tell St. Therese just what her life did for me all those years ago.