(To better understand this part of the story, read Part 1 here.)
Realizing that my relationship with God could be likened to marriage opened so many doors for reflection and exploration. It was a profound eureka moment for me, understanding for the first time how the grace of this Sacrament enables us, as the catechism puts it, to help one another attain holiness in our married life (CCC #1641). I discovered that all this time, I had somehow felt that those who lived consecrated lives (religious, clergy) had an enormous advantage over those who were married when it came to aspiring holiness, an advantage that affords them almost a monopoly on sainthood. (Yes, I am aware that there are saints who were married, but when I tally the ones who were against those who weren’t, the other end of the seesaw easily touches the ground.) But beginning to see how the Sacrament not only works for you to bring your spouse and your children to Christ (which was easier for me to see), but as an actual means to lead you closer to God (I know this, but I think it is only now that I understand it), I felt this leveled the playing field somewhat.
Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is He who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with His will. Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other…(CCC #1620)
I will surely expound more on this topic of Marriage as a path to holiness on later posts, but for the meantime, let me share with you a not-so-little gift I received last week.
This story is largely a continuation of Our Love Story, (Part 1 and Part 2) that is, mine and God’s. If you’ve read these previous posts, then perhaps you have an idea where I’m going with this. If you haven’t (or don’t have the time yet to read them), allow me to summarize as best I can.
At age 16, I decided to consecrate my youth to the Lord; a decision which, among other things, had me treating God as my significant other (or as any teen would call it, my boyfriend). Add to this my special relationship with St. Thérèse of Lisieux who constantly professed her being the “spouse of Christ,” I wanted nothing else but to follow in her manner of loving the Lord. I loved Jesus passionately, romantically, devotedly. And He made His presence felt in surprisingly miraculous and tangible ways (such as the time I received my Love Note From A Savior).
Admittedly though, when I got married, I was a bit confused. Was this right? Could I still love Jesus in the same way, now that I have a husband? I remember, during those early months of dating, whenever Peter would sincerely profess that he “loved me so much,” I would reply with a simpler “I love you.” I had been so used to saying “I love you so much” to Jesus, I wasn’t sure if it was right to say it to anyone else. I felt I needed to reserve that for Him.
Eventually though, I discovered new ways of relating to God–as Father, as Healer, as Provider, as Savior. None of them of lesser degree or import, but still worlds different from Lover.
During my months of spiritual darkness, I found myself longing desperately for that passionate, unreserved love from the days of my youth. At a time when I had felt so empty, so incapable of love, I presented this prayer to my dear friend Thérèse at every Tuesday novena at our parish: Bring me back to that Love again. I beg you. Let me love Him the way you loved Him.
And this is why this revelation, that God calls me to love Him as faithfully as I would my husband, was mind-blowing for me. It was an answer to my prayer! It was God telling me that our love need not have changed. It was Thérèse showing me that it is possible to still be the spouse of Christ even as a married woman (we did start out as boyfriend and girlfriend, after all). It was Jesus bringing the romance back in our relationship.
And now, finally, we come to what happened a week ago.
Last Monday, the 9th of September, I came home to a mystery package that was delivered to our home. I opened the long, white box, and found 3 exquisite, long-stemmed pink roses. Enclosed was a card with the following inscription:
God loves you, Pauline!
“If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals, or the storm bruised its stem, if it knew that such were not the case.” – St. Thérèse de Lisieux
The first thing that entered my mind was: “Who knows where I live?!!” But a moment or so after getting over various security implications, I began to see these flowers as they were.
Flowers from my Spouse in Heaven.
And Thérèse’s trademark for answered prayer.
“After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth. I will raise up a mighty host of little saints. My mission is to make God loved…” – (from Thérèse’s Story of a Soul)
P.S. I have since learned that the flowers were sent by a friend who also has a special devotion to St. Thérèse. But you will agree that knowing she sent them doesn’t make me marvel less at the value of this gift. The timing of the flowers’ arrival just a few days after experiencing this clear movement in prayer (which of course she had no way of knowing) still shows how our Romantic God had planned the whole thing.