In fact, my mother's abundance of concern is the reason June eighth is such an event in the town of Spring River. Fifteen June eighth eves ago, she kissed me goodnight, placed me in my crib, and said a quick prayer while holding a relic she'd received as a gift from a visiting priest. The relic was made of fabric taken from the robe of Saint Piera, back when she was designated as "blessed," meaning she'd been credited with one miracle by the Catholic Church. Mom left the piece of cloth on a table in my room and snapped off the light.

The next morning I woke with a loud cry. Actually, scream might be a better description. Mom rushed in to pick me up, convinced I was suffering from excruciating pain. Instead, she found me standing in my crib, the first time I'd ever put weight on my legs.

It was a big deal.

The Vatican investigated and validated my medical miracle. Three years later, the Pope elevated Mother Piera to sainthood and invited my parents to fly with me to Rome to attend the ceremony, known as a canonization. I have only a blurry memory of these events, including a noisy Saint Peter's Square packed with people and my father lifting me up on his shoulders as everyone recited prayers under a bright blue sky.

Fifteen years later, it's still a big deal. Mom and Dad do their best to shield me from worldwide attention for three hundred and sixty-four days out of the year. Most of the time, my one claim to fame is forgotten, except for the framed magazine cover hanging in our living room. But on June eighth, everything wondrous and awe-inspiring about my miracle cure rushes back into our lives.

Since that long ago night, my life has been tied to a woman I never met, who lived half a world away and died fifty years before I was born. But now ... we're forever linked by something that may have simply been the most epic of all coincidences.

Rarely do I get through an entire day without asking myself why this happened. If you passed me on the street, you'd say I'm nothing special. Miraculous healing aside, I'm completely unexceptional. I've been told my hazel eyes and long brown hair are a pretty combination, but my best friend Callie gets way more attention from boys. To be honest, I'm not a super brainiac or an athlete. Breaking a ten-minute mile in gym class was the highlight of my running life.

So how did I capture a famous saint's attention?

I wish I knew.

Because in the last fifteen years, I've learned just how lucky I am. Billions of people walk this Earth every day, waiting for some kind of miracle. Most of the time, it never comes.


Bang! Pray for us, Leanne!

Like magic, the June eighth choir appears, springing to life with an early-morning cymbal crash. I'm awake at 5:30 am, a time I wasn't sure existed outside of news reports and fairy tales.

Bang! My bed shakes. They brought a drum. Tambourines. Did someone roll an organ into my front yard?

As more voices join in the song, I scramble out of bed, intent on finding a way to escape before all my exit strategies disappear. Today's not a good day to take a long, hot shower, so I scrub soap on my face and throw my hair in a ponytail as I wish for an early tropical storm. Hailstones. A tornado warning. Any huge weather event will suffice. Something to keep the multitudes away.

"Pray for me, Leanne Strong!"

Our front door creaks open.

"Welcome, everyone," my father says in a somber voice. "Thank you for celebrating with us today. My daughter Leanne appreciates your prayers and well wishes." As Dad continues his carefully prepared speech, my pulse begins to pound. I grab my summer uniform from the closet: a pleated gray skirt, a white polo shirt and white knee socks which I tug as high as they'll go. The drumbeat kicks up again, followed by the wah-wah-wah of an electric guitar. Laughter bubbles in my chest, rising through my panic. The neighbors must be loving this early-morning Christian rock concert.

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