Have any of you seen the movie Julie & Julia? It tells the story of a young writer named Julie who develops an odd sort of “friendship” with the famous cook Julia Child by cooking her way through Child’s iconic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Throughout the film, Julie talks incessantly about this woman whom she has never met as though she is her dearest friend. She praises Julia’s confidence and spirit, expresses gratitude for her guidance and “company” in the kitchen, and wishes she could be exactly like her.
I recently watched the film again, and this time I realized why I felt so much pity for Julie: her “friendship” with Julia Child isn’t real. No matter how much she imagines that the legendary cook is present in her life to impart wisdom and assistance, this is only true in the sense that she has imagined it to be so. That would be enough reason to pity her, but the real reason I felt so sorry for her was that it is, in fact, possible to have a close friendship with a person whom you’ve never met — someone who embodies qualities you admire, who is present to guide and assist you, who serves as an example for you to imitate — if that person happens to be a saint in heaven!
I talk a great deal about St. Thérèse of Lisieux because she really has become as dear to me as any one of my closest friends. The Mother Superior at the local Carmel once told me that she was placing my vocation in the hands of St. Thérèse, and she promised me (with a great deal of audacity, I thought) that the Little Flower would not fail to help me to find my vocation. Not surprisingly (Reverend Mother is a very holy woman, and Thérèse a very eager intercessor!) her words turned out to be prophetic.
About two years after that conversation, my godfather surprised me with a precious gift: he took me to visit the Basilica of the Little Flower in San Antonio, TX. (That day I learned that my great-grandmother was also devoted to St. Thérèse and had donated towards the construction of the Basilica!) Since we happened to be the only people there that morning, we were given a private tour and the chance to venerate a first-class relic of the Little Flower. I remember those moments vividly – I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was meant to be in that church at that very moment because Thérèse wanted to tell me something: I had no reason to be anxious; she really was leading me to my vocation.
Only one other time in my life (after the death of Pope John Paul II) had I ever been so convinced of a saint’s intercession for me. After those moments with Thérèse, I knew that never again could I allow myself to doubt that she was with me on my journey.
What a friend I have found in the Little Flower! How eager she has been to help me by her prayers in my most desperate moments! How perfectly she has kept her promise, to “spend [her] Heaven doing good on earth!” St. Thérèse, pray for us!