It was a typical Sunday afternoon at Winco; harried shoppers crowded the aisles, jostling carts and mumbling terse apologies. As usual, I stopped in the Mexican food aisle. The exotic brands, bright colors and Spanish words always entrance me…and the candles! These votives feature Our Lady of Guadalupe in her sunburst aura and other saints less familiar to Anglo Americans. This time I gave them only a glance, in a hurry to complete a long list of errands.


Then a stranger approached; an elderly Mexican woman in a black dress and a calico tunic apron, her salt and pepper hair braided into a crown. She spoke to me in Spanish, smiling like a friend, her eyes locked on mine.


“This is the candle you need. Saint Jude, the patron of impossible causes.”


She held out a votive picturing a haloed blond male in white robes. He clasped a giant gold coin at his chest; a flame hovered over his head like a red butterfly.


“He’s good for mothers who worry about their children…and everything.  Good for pain…for everything. He will pray to Jesus for you, so you can rest.”


I’d been editing my first novel. The Mexican woman was so like one of my main characters, my mouth dropped open the moment she appeared.


Questions immediately arose.  How did she know I spoke Spanish?  Why was she running around a present-day supermarket in 1950ʼs kitchen apparel?  How did she know I experience pain which robs my sleep?  And with such a recommendation, how could I not buy that candle?


I pinched my hand – hard – to check if I was dreaming. The sensation was as real as the cold from the freezer case. Thanking her, I put the candle in my cart and we went our separate ways.


She could have been God’s emissary, reminding me that my impossible causes are in God’s care. My children, my book, my very life, all belong to God.


The family of God is all around me. A Mexican grandmother can appear, straight from 1959, apron tied and ready to assist my shopping. A stranger can look me in the eye and see deep down to the challenges I face.


I can trust the saints to be praying so I can rest. We are all candles waiting to give light to one another. Let us be a community of saints praying for impossible causes. 
— Claire Nail