Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Book's Patron Saints

Right as I was finishing up the exhausting process of making sure that the final galley of my manuscript was as ready for publication as humanly possible, some very precious articles found their way into my hands.  If you do read my book Finding Grace, which is a novel aimed primarily at impressionable teens and young adults, you will see that Saint Therese of Lisieux ("The Little Flower," as she is called) and Saint Catherine Laboure (the humble nun who is responsible for having Miraculous Medals struck, at Our Lady's special request) both play a big part in the story.  My protagonist, a young girl named Grace Kelly, is inspired by an offhand remark from her father to become a saint, and so she begins to read about the lives of the saints for inspiration and guidance.  One of her favorites--mine, too--is Saint Therese, for this dear saint and Doctor of the Church speaks of the "Little Way of Spiritual Childhood"; she teaches us about the "Little Way" to holiness, which means that each of us, no matter how small we may seem, can hope to be a saint.  Grace also wears a Miraculous Medal constantly in the book  (in fact, there is a picture of this medal on the front cover), and therefore she has a special affinity for Saint Catherine Laboure.

So many things that happened during the course of writing this book and right afterwards seem like more than mere coincidences.  I finished writing the 32nd and final chapter of Finding Grace on December 1, 2011, after laboring on it for four and a half years.  The very next day, December 2, I was able to accompany my husband on one of his trips to Europe, for the first time in the 15 years he'd been flying internationally for his airline.  And where do you think this trip was headed?  To Nice, on the breathtaking French Riviera.  So on our second day of sightseeing, we took a train ride over to nearby Monaco to visit the old stomping grounds of who else but Grace Kelly, the Hollywood actress cum princess--and my main character's namesake!

Finding Grace also has a section that deals with the Holocaust.  In January of 2012, I was able to travel with my husband to Europe on a second trip, this time to Amsterdam...and while we were there, we took a tour of the Anne Frank House, which was a truly affecting experience.  I couldn't believe that the first two times I ever rode in the back of a plane that my husband was piloting overseas, these destinations with so much meaning for me, because of how they tied in with the book I'd just finished, were the ones I was lucky enough to visit.

Those two experiences got to me, but not nearly as much as something that took place in late July, just about the time the book was ready to go to print, at my family's 2nd Annual Camping Palooza.  During the weekend reunion with my mother's family, there were some special items set out on a table--some of my late maternal grandmother's paintings, some jewelry and other valuables, old letters and photos--that my mother and her only other living sibling wanted to pass on to the next generation in our family.  So my siblings and cousins and I were encouraged to look over all the stuff and see if there was anything we wanted to take. My eyes fell on a dingy-looking little off-white hinged jewelry box, and I absentmindedly opened it up.  I couldn't believe what I found inside.  Sitting there on faded turquoise velvet were two very small, round, ornately-decorated glass-topped cases (tarnished and obviously quite old) with tiny relics inside them. Inside one of the cases, a small strip of paper had this typed on it: "S. Teres. a Ies."  "That must be a relic of Saint Therese of Lisieux!!", I thought.  The other had a strip of paper that read, "Ste C. Laboure"--and not only that, it came with an official Church document (dated 1955, with a signature and a raised seal) identifying the tiny bone fragments in the case as "sacris Reliquiis Sanctae Catharinae Laboure" (in Latin: sacred relics of Saint Catherine Laboure) and further describing them as "ex ossibus" (from the bones).
The holy saints' relics, sitting atop a pre-publication galley of my manuscript.

A close-up of the relics.
Oh my gosh, was I thrilled...and filled with utter disbelief.  Imagine finding these priceless treasures so soon after finishing a book that was very much dedicated to these two very saints!  My mother said that I could have both tiny reliquaries, and I brought them home, filled with awe and excitement.  When I told my publisher about the precious relics of Saint Therese and Saint Catherine Laboure that had somehow come my way, out of the blue, she said that clearly they should be considered the patron saints of my book.  If they are, I have some powerful helpers in my corner!

I definitely need their assistance these days as I struggle with feelings of both elation and terror, now that a lifelong dream of mine has actually been realized and my book is out there, open to scrutiny and criticism. I find myself sending up this silent entreaty: "Saint Therese of Lisieux and Saint Catherine Laboure, PRAY FOR ME!"


  1. This is amazing!! I didn't know this happened at the Palooza!!! Wow.

  2. It was the last thing I thought I'd find when I opened up that jewelry case. I already have several paintings done by my grandmother, so I wasn't even planning to take any of the things on the table...and then I found those relics!

  3. I sat and read this as I was eating my lunch! I felt like I was at the movie theater! You know, how it's all so interesting and you're mindless to all the food you're eating. Lunch is finished! Clearly - piqued my interest. Beautiful. Just beautiful! Thank you so much for leaving this on my blog.

    1. This was the nicest comment to find, Cristina. Thank you.

      I am still so amazed that I have these relics. I'm probably going to have to donate them someday, so that they'll be publicly venerated somewhere; but for now, I'm just treasuring them.