Ask for a rose …

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Photo: Immaculate/Shutterstock

Sixteen years ago my wife was pregnant with our second child. From several ultrasounds, we knew that our child was a boy and that he had hydrocephalus. Our doctor surmised that his condition would not be severe, but there was no way to know this with certainty until after he was born.

Unexpectedly my wife went into labor during her 35th week of pregnancy. We hurried to the hospital and met our doctor who, quite providentially, had returned from an out-of-state trip just hours before. An ultrasound made it clear that our son was attempting an early arrival because his heart rate had gone seriously awry. 

There was now a team of doctors before us. Their plan was to deliver our son via cesarean section and then attempt to stabilize his heart rate. My wife and I prayed for our son. We prayed for our doctors. I prayed for my wife.

I vividly remember asking the head doctor if he thought our son would make it. He honestly wasn’t sure. Then and there, I quickly arranged to have our son baptized as soon as he was born and his heart rate stabilized. It was in the same delivery room, then, that our Dominic was born into this world and born again of water and the Holy Spirit.

I quickly arranged to have our son baptized as soon as he was born.

Dominic was an impressive 8 pounds, 7 ounces at birth. He was by far the largest baby in the neonatal intensive care unit. The NICU was basically our home for the next three weeks. And it was there that we received some horrible news.

After taking repeated scans of Dominic’s brain, the doctors both confirmed his diagnosis of hydrocephalus, and additionally diagnosed him with “brain atrophy.” As if the name of the condition were not bad enough, we were informed that Dominic would soon experience paralysis and death.

Despite all of this, we prayed long and hard for Dominic. Our friends, priests, and parishes prayed, too. I cannot recall all of the saints to whom we prayed 16 years ago. I do remember, though, that we taped every holy card we could find to Dominic’s little bed in the NICU. Several priests came to visit our Dominic, to bless him and pray for him.

We prayed long and hard for Dominic. Our friends, priests, and parishes prayed, too.

During Dominic’s stay at the NICU, my wife suggested that we privately pray a rose novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “The Little Flower.” In the novena, the petitioner asks St. Thérèse to send a rose as a sign of God’s love. I had never prayed this novena before, but I found it intriguing. My wife, on the other hand, loved this novena and had prayed it often in the past. We prayed the novena together and asked St. Thérèse to send us a rose if Dominic would be all right. I wondered if we would in fact receive one. 

Dominic Arias. Photo courtesy of David Arias

Several days into the novena, my wife and I were praying in our pew after a weekday Mass. Then something truly out of the ordinary happened. A lady approached our pew holding a beautiful, large rose! She handed it to us and assured us that it was a gift from Jesus. As she explained, it was her practice, every couple of days, to place a fresh rose from her garden in a vase near the tabernacle. Then she would find a new home for the older rose that had been near Our Lord. This time we happened to be the chosen recipients.

Was this the rose we had asked St. Thérèse for? Was this a sign that Dominic would be all right? It was. But that became perfectly clear only as time passed. After being discharged from the NICU, Dominic’s case was followed closely by a cardiologist and a neurosurgeon. After two years of tests and appointments, though, he was given a clean bill of health!

Sixteen years later, I thank God that Dominic is a smart and fine young man who loves to play basketball, serve at the altar, and wrestle with his siblings. And I thank St. Thérèse for showing us that, whenever we need a sign of God’s love, we need only ask for a rose. 

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Catholic Digest.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Photo: Kattiya.L/Shutterstock

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