Bright Maidens: Budding Hope

Week Four: Patron Saints
Less is More” by Elizabeth Hillgrove
 Saint Who?” by Julie Robison

 We three are writing a Lenten blog post series from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

 Budding Hope

Like any great friendship, when I look back at the early moments of this relationship, I find it hard to remember exactly what happened.  Did I reach out to him first?  Or was it the other way around?  Who expressed more interest?  How did I even meet him?

It was a time when I was in great need of friend.  I’d never been more lonely or disheartened.  Transferring to a new college had left me friendless, angry with God, emotionally exhausted, and frightened.  I wasn’t sure how I would make it through one more year of studying.  It was too late to go back home, and I felt like an utter failure.  Couldn’t fit in at either college, huh?  It must not be the colleges.  Must be you.

Though I was angry with God, I never stopped talking to him, and I begged, over and over again, “Please send me a friend.”  I joined every campus club, worked out daily, partied too much, and ended my days with hours of weeping, or, if I could sleep, suffering from terrible nightmares.  I also took a job at a local Catholic bookstore. 

On a slow Friday night, when the bookstore was empty, I poked around the bookstore and opened a novena booklet on St. Raphael.  The summary was short, but enough to pique my interest.  A disguised angel leads a young man to his future spouse?  Sounds awesome.  And he’s the patron saint of travelers, happy meetings, those seeking a spouse, and blindness?  I needed to meet him!  Wasn’t that, minus the blindness, everything I was looking for?  I quickly turned to the Book of Tobit and devoured the story.  How great that God sends angels to answer the prayers of his people, I thought!  I offered a prayer to St. Raphael right away and asked him to intercede for me.

Weeks went by and nothing changed.  I prayed the novena to St. Raphael and for some reason wasn’t disappointed when nothing new happened.  Maybe St. Raphael just needed more time.  I continued to pray to him with a small budding hope that he would come through for me.

After yet another disastrous week of loneliness, I cried in bed, sobbing into my pillows late at night, almost choking from the violence of my tears. “Please, St. Raphael,” I begged, my body trembling.  “Please help me.”  I hugged my covers to my chest, and suddenly, in spite of my desperation, I felt a deep sense of peace wash over me, and I feel asleep.

The next morning I woke up with renewed energy.  To the core of my being, I knew that St. Raphael had been with me the night before.  I began to trust him and talk to him throughout the day.  I read the Book of Tobit again, drawing strength from the fact that God sends his angels to guide us.  Raphael wrestled with my insecurities, reminding me I was a beloved child of God.  He asked me to let go of my anger and to trust God more.  At every stress point, he was there, gently guiding me to hope.  The rest of the semester flew by, and though I didn’t make any new friends, I felt more confident and peaceful than I’d had in the past 7 months.  At home for summer break, I spent my days babysitting my little cousins and hanging out with hometown friends.  My evenings ended with prayers, including the novena prayers to St. Raphael.

The next fall, as I returned back to college, I felt very positive that something would change.

And change it did.

Travelers:  As a transfer student, I’d traveled from one school to another.  After St. Raphael’s intercession, my final year of college was my happiest and most fulfilling.

Happy Meetings: Within weeks of returning for my last year of college, I made a bunch of new friends.  I felt accepted and welcomed on the campus where I’d lived for the past year.  It was with gratitude and amazement that I called my sister and said, “People like me!”

Blindness: Being lonely certainly affected how I thought of myself.  I had a very negative inner critic who was always informing me of how I failed at everything.  With St. Raphael’s help, I was able to banish her and see the truth about myself and others.  A veil over my eyes was removed, and I saw a lot more love and care in the world.

Seeking a Spouse:  Sorry to disappoint those who’ve been Googling “Can St. Raphael find you a boyfriend?”  but, no, St. Raphael didn’t find me a boyfriend or a spouse that year.  He renewed my confidence that God has a plan for me, and I went on many dates that year, happily knowing that God was guiding me. 

St. Raphael was a great friend to me during this time of need.  He worked a great change in my heart and continually pushed me to seek and trust God.  If you’re seeking a friend to guide you to God, know that you can count on Raphael.  I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who lift the prayers of the saints and serve the Throne of the Holy One” (Tobit 12:12-15)