For the past several years, there are a few things I’ve worn almost constantly. The first is my wedding ring, which I’ve avoided losing for more than 18 years despite taking it off during showers and occasionally when putting sunscreen on a kid or mixing meatloaf with my hands.
The second is a medal my wife bought me several years ago after I converted to the Faith. This four-way medal, which has images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Christopher, the Miraculous Medal and St. Joseph, is affixed to a chain around my neck, and I never take it off (which means that I also haven’t lost it).
Three years ago, I added a third item that never leaves me. Until recently. When I lost it.
In the late summer of 2016, my wife, daughter and I were wandering the streets of Rome near the Colosseum. We were on a quest to find San Gregorio Magno al Celio (the Church of St. Gregory), and we got turned around in the nooks and crannies of tight, twisting cobblestone streets.
I had found out several months prior that I would be attending a conference in Rome for journalists who cover the Church, and my wife and daughter were more than happy to come along. But God had bigger plans. Less than a week after I found out I was going, the Vatican announced that Mother Teresa was to be canonized during our visit.
I reached out to the Missionaries of Charity in Rome in search of tickets to the canonization Mass and was thrilled when they responded with an email that said, “We look forward to sharing the joy of this celebration with you.” The tickets, they wrote, could be picked up on the Friday before the canonization at their convent at San Gregorio.
So as we tried to navigate the maze of back alleys, we did so with a purpose. Knowing that we were close according to our big, old-fashioned laminated map, we knocked on what appeared to be a back door. It gently opened, and the elderly woman who greeted us was warm and inviting, but what stood out immediately was her familiar white sari with three blue stripes. We asked about tickets, and she said that a group of sisters at the front entrance of the church would have them for us, but would we like to come in to the convent and see Mother Teresa’s room?
She led us down an open-aired hallway that was lined on both sides with doors to guest rooms. Mother Teresa’s room was a few doors down on the left, its door propped open. When she was in Rome, this Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was known the world over, stayed in a space that couldn’t have been more than 5 feet wide by 10 feet long, with a simple twin bed, a dresser and a night stand. On the night stand there was a photo of the soon-to-be saint and a handful of stainless-steel medals that depicted her saintly face with her hands pressed together in prayer. We were encouraged to take as many medals as we wanted — they were gifts the order was giving out in honor of their foundress’ canonization. I placed several in my pocket, took a few pictures of the saint’s humble room, and we were led out the back door and directed to where we could get our tickets.
That night in the hotel, I placed St. Teresa’s medal on my chain right where she belongs — right next to Jesus, the Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph and St. Christopher. The next day, it was blessed by Pope Francis at the end of a special catechesis for charity workers during the Year of Mercy. And despite it being tugged at and slobbered on by our two youngest children, it had been hanging around my neck ever since that night.
Until I lost it.
We were swimming at a friend’s pool when I noticed the four-way medal was hanging by itself on the chain. St. Teresa was gone. It’s a big pool, and I remember our 3-month-old grabbing hold of the chain while I protected her from her brothers’ splashes. We searched for a bit but couldn’t find it. I was resigned to it being lost forever.
Normally, I would knock on the familiar door of St. Anthony for help, but on our way home, I prayed to God and to St. Teresa to help find it. It was a longshot. While I figured the thumbprint-sized medal might have been lost in the pool, it could have been anywhere.
It wasn’t more than a few hours later, after the kids had gone to bed, that my wife came downstairs holding the medal I had taken from Mother Teresa’s own night stand. She had found it in the bottom of our shower.
The next day at Mass, our priest read the following Gospel: “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Lk 11:9-10).
Knock, and maybe that door will be opened by a kind, elderly nun in a blue-trimmed sari, guiding you where you need to go. Maybe you are the one who is lost and needs to be found. Maybe you just need a reminder, as I did, that in order to receive, we must ask.
Scott Warden is a managing editor at Our Sunday Visitor.