Oh, where to begin? How about 2005? When Jackie and I went on Engaged Encounter, our most productive communication that weekend was THE NAME LIST. We paired together some of our favorite saints to create first and middle names that sounded awesome. Jude Blase, Augustine Thomas, Xavier Rocco, and Zelie Jane. We joked about how with names like those, our kids could totally start their own garage rock band, with Zelie on guitar and lead vocals, of course.
Fast forward, to 2010. We received our beautiful daughter. And we started making the phone calls to parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters to share the news. My folks didn’t answer at first, so we left a cryptic message and kept going down the list. And again and again, when we said, “Her name is Zelie Jane” the response was, quite understandably: “Zelie?” Until my mom finally called us back. When we told her, she started crying and said, “I love it. I love it. Thank you. You’ve made her so happy.” Because my mom, who is named Therese, knew exactly who the namesake of her newest granddaughter was. Zelie Martin: wife, mother of nine children, including St. Therese, lacemaker, Catholic woman who lived the motto “God must be served first.” At the time, Zelie Martin and her husband Louis, whose causes for sainthood had been linked together, only had one confirmed miracle, so they were recognized as Blessed. We thought how wonderful it would be to someday celebrate her canonization as a Saint together as a family.
Which brings us to 2015, when Zelie and Louis’ second miracle was confirmed and it was announced that on Oct. 18, they would be lifted up as an example of marriage and family life for all the Catholic Church. So this is a once in a lifetime event! It is not every day that your namesake is canonized. This was a cause for a celebration. We invited the families from our House of Gold prayer group to come revel in the day alongside us. Most of us have been friends since our awkward high school days. Vocation came a knocking, and our families have grown parallel to one another. Both of Zelie’s godparents were with us that day as well.
So we started off with a Rosary for the parents, and some Zelie-themed games for the kids, with varying degrees of success. Escargot, a French hopscotch game, was a pretty big hit, with minimal tears. Zelie and Louis had a hard time discerning their vocations, at first thinking they were called to be a priest and a sister, so we played Telephone, where the messages got quite bumbled if you weren’t listening well. And of course, no one was listening well. I wouldn’t recommend playing Telephone with 5 year olds. Or even 9 year olds, who thought it would be fun to spontaneously change the message they heard to “Ekky blekky bloo bah” half way around the circle. Yes, Telephone was a test of patience for me. Can Joel refrain from bringing out the angry eyebrows and kicking that kid out of the game just 5 minutes after joyfully teaching about the lives of two new saints? No. He can’t. Finally, a day on the Arnold farm is not complete for our friends’ city kids without a trip to the haybales. So I made up a game called Watchmaker/Lacemaker, which was basically just a timed race with…wait for it…because it’s really creative…a watch and some lace. This was the favorite game of the day.
The highlight of the day for me was the food though. Jackie had encouraged everyone to bring French food to celebrate these two new French saints. It was ridiculously good. A taste of heaven on earth. Beef Bourguignon, Gougeres, baguettes, the fanciest potatoes au gratin I’ve ever seen, lemon cream puffs, and a cheese so insanely good, I considered digging through the trash the next day to find the wrapper to assure I would be able to sample it again some day. I think it was a camembert. I must track it down. A new culinary quest has begun. As groups of friends go, we are so blest to feast together. We could not have done better in selecting lifelong friends if we had held interviews and asked to sample their best dishes.
Adding to this glimpse into eternity together was the amazing music of the Jack Korbel Confluence. If you are yet to listen to Jack’s songs, stop reading this, go to Spotify, and search for him-start with Earth and Stars Hymn. So, so good. He writes music that was meant to be played in a verdant green living room with rich dark woodwork and a brick fireplace, while listeners recline by bookshelves packed with encyclicals, Austen, Wendell Berry, and Sigrid Undset. (Sorry there, that previous sentence took on a life of it’s own. Jack’s lyrics will make you want to try and write like that.) Seeing my kids drawn towards the melodies in the living room and staring entranced by the strings of the guitar and the violin was a good, good moment. Perhaps that rock band may yet happen. I was able to snap a quick picture of Zelie snuggling up against our cousin Jamie. This little Zelie is blest to have such strong, beautiful women to look up to in her life. Her mother, her aunts and cousins. Her godmother and grandmothers. And her own Saint Zelie.
St. Zelie, pray for us!