I was raised to believe in legends.
When I say that, I don’t just mean any legends. I mean the legends of the saints.
The word “legends” is not to imply that I’ve stopped believing in Catholic saints as an adult. I know they were (in most cases) real historical figures, and I have a reverence for the holy lives they led. But I now realize certain stories told about these men and women aren’t necessarily true… or, at least, aren’t verifiable. Maybe St. Patrick didn’t really turn the evil ruler into a fox and maybe St. Anthony didn’t really preach to the fishes in the sea when the townspeople cast him out. I won’t go on record saying it’s false, but I won’t go on record saying it’s true, either.
As a child, though, I believed it all. And one of my favorites was the legend of St. Dorothy.
According to the story, Dorothy was a young, beautiful girl during the time of Roman persecution. As they dragged her away for torture and execution, a young man mocked her faith. He called out, “Dorothy! When you get to Heaven—ask your God to send me something special from His gardens.” Dorothy looked at him, responding simply, “Very well,” and passed on to the place of execution.
That night, the rich young man held a feast with his friends. They laughed together over Dorothy’s impossible promise. As they talked and laughed, a young man in a white robe entered the room. Everyone could see the basket he held in his hands; it was filled with sweet-scented roses and golden apples. He held it out to the young man. “Dorothy sends these.”
“Dorothy’s God… is the true God.”
The young man could answer nothing else. He knew now what he had to do. He professed the Christian faith, was tortured by the Romans, and died a martyr’s death, following in the footsteps of the woman who had inspired him.
What did this story mean, for my childhood self? More important, what does it mean for me now? It’s hard to say. Something about the golden apples and roses grabs my imagination every time. Perhaps it makes the fruits of God’s love tangible—something I can see and touch. Perhaps the joy of Heaven is encapsulated in those small, sweet-smelling flowers.
Do I believe it’s true? Honestly… yes. St. Dorothy and her fruit and roses are real to me. She is part of the landscape of my soul, and she gives me hope. If the God she followed would send a token of her compassion beyond the grave, to show a lost and wandering lamb the light of faith, what limits can be placed on His care for me?
It’s not just a legend, you see. It is more than that.