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The Gift of My Patron Saint

I didn’t choose my patron saint, she choose me.

It was a breezy spring afternoon at wrap up week for National Evangelization Teams (NET) Ministries. Hanging out in Amery, WI at Camp Wapo was a chance to connect with friends and prepare ourselves to ‘face the real world’. As the crowd was gathering in the chapel for the next wrap up session on something like, ‘trusting God with your future’, or ‘how to proclaim Jesus in the workplace’, my very dear friend, Jeremy, grabbed my hand and said, “C’mon! Let’s go!” Stunned, I looked at him. “But, but, but…”, I stammered as my eyes watched the people go inside and my body started moving in the opposite direction. I couldn’t help but think that ‘I don’t skip, this isn’t me! I go to things I am expected to be at.’ But that day, I didn’t and in some ways it forever changed my life.

Jeremy led me down a wooded path just beyond the buildings. There was some sort of team building course set up. I remember there being a long rope to balance and walk on with ropes on the sides to hold onto. Below was a big pit of sloppy mud. Jeremy got on the rope and helped me up. As we started across he turned and looked at me intently.

“Molly, who is your patron saint?”

Being the good Catholic girl that I was, but still having a very Protestant disposition, I wasn’t sure what he meant.

“Uh, I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? Who is your confirmation saint?”

“I don’t have one.”

“You didn’t pick a saint at your confirmation?”

Nope. I sure didn’t. And I remember so much about that day, April 10, 1994 to be exact, but I don’t recall having a saint.

“Well, that’s ok,” he said, “we’ll find you one.”

“Can you do that?” I asked.

“Sure, why not? Now let me think…”

A few moments went by. Excited and nervous, I looked down at the mud, thinking about who it might be while simultaneously thinking we might get caught skipping out on session. I looked around, no one to be seen. We started to move again.

Abruptly he turned to me causing the rope to sway and exclaimed, “I’ve got it!”

Grinning from ear to ear, Jeremy proclaimed, “Joan of Arc!”

“Ohhh, I like that,” I said, and I really did. I knew very little of her, but I liked the thought of having someone so courageous as my saint.

“Yes, that’s right. She’s strong and is a great warrior. And you, you are a great warrior.”

I looked shyly down, not used to having a guy pay so much attention to me. I was pleased, but certainly didn’t quite feel like a warrior. I also couldn’t help but think of her being burned at the stake. Did I really want my patron saint to be someone who was burned alive! Did that mean martyrdom was in my future?

“Uh, could I also have Mary?”

He laughed, “Yes, yes you can. They will both be your saints.”

And then he said it, “Molly Jean Mary Joan.”

I don’t know how long it took me to figure out that my birth names are actually derivatives of my patrons. Molly is an Irish form of Mary and Jean is a variant of Jane taken from John, which Joan is the feminine equivalent to. I guess your patron saint really does choose you.

I remember that day proudly recalling how Jeremy treated me, the abundance of life he exuded. His smile. The way he looked at me when he said Joan of Arc, brightly grinning, as if he just revealed a great secret. He was a good friend to me and I was glad to cut class to forever have that memory with him. We had a few other adventures during our time with NET, but this is the one that remains so present with me today.

A year later we lost Jeremy to a tragic accident. A life shortly lived, but lived to the full. It’s been 14 years since his death, but I still recall that spring day. The mud. His smile. His ability to make one feel known. Thank you Jeremy for teaching me about living life to the full and for giving me one of the greatest gifts one could ask for, my patron saint.

St. Joan of Arc’s feast day is May 30. To see my favorite painting of her, click here.

Who is your patron saint? How did you choose them or how did they choose you?

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