Posted February 14, 2017 - by James Blankenship
Editor's Note: We are in the middle of Catholic Marriage Week, an important part of National Marriage Week! We will be publishing posts that celebrate the beauty of marriage from now until February 14th. Stay tuned!
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
Most good love stories begin with a kiss, mine begins with a rose. Growing up the Lord blessed me with faithful parents who taught me the Faith and told me stories about the saints. When I was young my mother introduced me to a child saint who became a saint because of her Little Way. As a child, that Little Way was not only attractive but doable. St. Therese of Lisieux quickly became one of my favorite saints and my devotion to her grew rapidly.
My devotion to St. Therese deepened in college particularly during my semester abroad. I had the opportunity to visit Lisieux and spend time praying to the great little saint that I had become so attached to. I spent time in her Carmel chapel and in the great basilica built in her honor. I had the opportunity to venerate her relics and I even acquired a relic of my own.
But the strange thing about my and St. Therese's relationship was, she never answered my prayers with a rose. I would pray and pray and despite our closeness, never once did I get a promised rose.
After college I entered a religious community to discern a vocation to the priesthood. The order’s main patron was St. Francis de Sales, but their spirituality allowed for some wiggle room. Even though I became close with St. Francis, I maintained my closeness with St. Therese. After five months of living with the community I had my vocation crises and started contemplating an exit from religious life. I labored over a decision for weeks.
Phone a friend
I needed a concrete answer to my vocation crises so I employed the help of a friend who had received many roses from St. Therese. She prayed the novena for me and a few days after the close of the novena she emailed me that she had received a single yellow rose. That yellow rose was confirmation that God intended for me to leave religious life and get married.
Fast forward to June 2016. I had wandered in the desert of the dating world for ten years. I had been on many first dates. Some of them were very awkward; some were fun. I had some very meaningful relationships, and some that were mere flashes in the pan. In those ten years I had experienced some joy and a lot of pain. I had worn myself out from dating and was very close to deleting my profile on CatholicMatch. My subscription was set to expire at the end of June and I decided to not renew it.
On June 7th I received a smiley face message from a girl who didn’t live too far from me. We exchanged smiley faces, then messages. We began emailing and finally we started talking on the phone. Kayla had just moved back into the area and we didn't meet in person until July after she started her new job. She had taken a job at a parish not to far from mine. She was a Director of Religious Education and so was I, so we had lots to talk about.
Things were not working out
We began seeing each other one day a week, sometimes on Saturday for a longer date like a hike in the woods. Or we would get together on Sunday for dinner. Things were progressing slowly and neither she nor I was “feeling it.” Kayla at one point tried to call things off and for some strange reason, perhaps a divine reason, she was unsuccessful.
A few weeks later, Kayla recounted how the Lord told her in prayer to “show me Mercy.” My pride flared up and I was super offended. I need mercy from the Lord, not her. I stewed over my hurt pride and decided I wanted to call things off myself.
So I sorta ignored her all week and was intent on seeing her on Saturday to break up. So confident in my plan to break things off, I defrosted a package of hamburger meat because I had plans to be home for dinner. But God had different plans.
We ended up talking for 5 hours and my quiet meal at home turned out to be a talkative dinner at a restaurant. Kayla suggested that perhaps the Lord wanted her to show me a "way" to mercy, so she suggested we prepare for a consecration to Merciful Love.
This consecration was first done by my childhood friend St. Therese. Kayla was suggesting that we consecrate ourselves to that same Love that made Therese a saint.
I had learned through my years of dating to never shut a door.
Despite my hurt pride and the desire to break up, I agreed to do this preparation with her.
Four days in, and I fell off my horse
Four days into the preparation, I had a St. Paul moment and if I was on a horse, I would have definitely fallen off. The Lord showed me in a flash of wisdom and gave me an understanding that Kayla wasn’t just “showing me mercy;” she is God's Mercy. I was instantaneously reminded of a prayer that I had prayed at the beginning of the summer for mercy. The Gospel one Sunday was all about mercy and I spent the rest of the Mass begging for that mercy! I remember thinking distinctly that if the Lord didn’t show me mercy, I would not make it to heaven.
I told Him rather forcefully that if He wants me in heaven, He needs to show me mercy and give me a wife. Four days into my preparation I experienced a grace filled moment where I realized that Kayla was that mercy I was demanding from the Lord months earlier.
I had several more St. Paul moments over the course of the thirty-three day consecration preparation. Finally we made our consecration to Merciful Love on October 1st, the feast of St. Therese. We attended Mass together at the grotto at Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland.
We presented flowers to Our Lady at the grotto and then headed over to the parish church to make the consecration itself. We knelt before the the altar which had a Divine Mercy picture right next to it and made our consecration. There was also a statue of St. Therese in the church and we made a small thanksgiving to the saint who had brought us together. We went from the parish church over to the Mother Seton shrine to pray before the great American saint and ended the day with a nice dinner at a local restaurant.
Another phone a friend moment
Just as I had employed the help of a friend ten years earlier, I asked a good friend to pray a novena to St. Therese on my behalf leading up to my consecration. Each place we visited on October 1st was adorned with roses. I took it as a heavenly sign that God (and St. Therese) was happy with us and our budding relationship.
Our budding relationship began to flower very quickly and I proposed to Kayla on October 28th, the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude. She was expecting the proposal and so I needed to surprise her by proposing in some unique way. I decided to give her two dozen roses which I had very nicely boxed up.
Also in that box of flowers, I gave her my statue of St. Therese, which I had gotten from the shrine in Lisieux, and my relic of St. Therese. I gave her the flowers and my prized possessions, then I knelt down and gave her my heart.
Joyfully we visited and prayed at all the places that we had visited when we made our consecration to Merciful Love. We finished the evening by having dinner at the same little restaurant in Emmitsburg. At the end of the meal the waitress brought us the check. Along with the check she brought a single yellow rose. I never did figure out why she brought that rose, but that single yellow rose certainly came from St. Therese. I left the seminary to get married with the heavenly sign of a yellow rose. And I got engaged to be married with the same heavenly sign, a yellow rose.
The Lord’s ways are mysterious. He guides and directs each of us through the difficulties of life and as long as we are faithful to His commands, He will reward us with His Mercy. For me, His mercy is Kayla, and He showed me that mercy through a yellow rose.