I had to go into the city pretty early today for an afternoon appointment. Since I had some time before the appointment, I decided to go to church. I was delighted. It was a Friday and what better way to observe Sacred Heart Friday as I called my Friday observance, one I’ve been trying to keep since the first Friday of the year.
I also had a little plan. There was someone at church I wanted to have a word with. She was the church clerk, Patricia, a simple, open and trusting young lady. I had met her sickly mother after Mass the week before and she had unhappily confided in me that Patricia was going to be married in a few months. I was happy for Patricia although I knew it was going to be hard for the mother whose last daughter was going to move to the capital, some 4 hours away, leaving the mother all alone here.
Slowly, I began to sniff out what was not being said – that the mother’s anxiety actually stemmed from the fact that Patricia was probably marrying a non-Catholic, more likely a non-Christian. To a woman whose own non-Christian spouse had walked out on her and her 4 very young children early in their marriage, it must have seemed like a revisiting of an old nightmare.
I felt the mother’s pain keenly and I was determined to help. A young relative of ours had married the same way a year ago and there was no end of problems unique to mixed marriages. I didn’t want to break up Patricia’s relationship or anything; I was not God and not about to play one either. But I hoped to at least remind Patricia to choose Jesus in her relationship with this man – and then see where that choice took her. If it didn’t change anything, fine. After all, both spouses being Catholic wasn’t a guarantee of marriage stability or permanence.
When my husband left me at church, I saw Patricia striding quickly towards her car and taking off rather hurriedly. I shrugged. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be. And anyway, the wedding was to be in September, so I still had some time.
It was a comfort to be inside the almost empty church. The deep stillness within was almost like a womb. I felt secure and loved and at peace.
Taking out my precious little brown rosary, I began to recite the Divine Mercy chaplet. I tried to pin intentions to the chaplet but by the second decade, it was clear that I could plan all I wanted; the Chaplet was going to proceed under Someone else’s leading.
Feeling unusually secure and mellow, I wasn’t in the mood to put up a fight. So, I let God lead and tried to empty myself – of myself.
After the second decade, I felt the Chaplet end prematurely. I looked around the church a bit as my heart shone a torch at my spirit to see what the problem was.
All was still. ‘Nobody’ was yielding any secrets.
I eyed Jesus in the Divine Mercy image. I am here to console Thee. If today You ask me to be still, I will be still, I told Him.
Having said that, I didn’t bother to try to discern any more intentions. I settled back and relaxed, my mind actually empty.
I was feeling pleased and was about to enjoy the feeling when I felt my eyes being taken, from Jesus’ face, to the words at the bottom of the Divine Mercy image.
I read the words, Jesus, I trust in You. Words I have seen and read many, many times before.
Simultaneously, I felt Someone write on my heart,
Trust in Me.
My breath didn’t still, my heart didn’t catch. Just peace and calm.
After a few minutes, I felt ready to leave the pew. As I stood up, I looked at Jesus on the Cross. Jesus, I have to go now, I told Him, but I leave my heart sealed in Your Tabernacle.
I had brought some work with me to do while I waited for the appointment in town. As I sat down to it in the Parish Community area, I saw Patricia return and walk into the office.
Strangely, despite my firm resolution earlier to do some good intentioned meddling, the fervor to go and poke my head into the young lady’s life had now disappeared.
Several hours later, appointment over, I was back at church expecting my husband any second to come and get me and for us to make the long trip back to our home, when Patricia herself bounded up to my table.
I immediately brought up the topic of her marriage but almost immediately as well, I felt a strong urge to still my tongue and just listen to Patricia. It was not Patricia’s doing; it was from deep within me, this certainty that what was needed now was to empty myself of my plans and words and….just listen.
I found myself asking the girl gentle questions – but not to draw her to my turf – instead, to lead her to open up and speak. Again, what she needed to hear from me no longer mattered; what mattered was that she be allowed to speak freely.
I tell you in all honesty, that was never the plan. Never my plan, that is. Not that I wanted to push her into a corner and clap my hand over her mouth and force her to listen to me. I just didn’t want a long, drawn out conversation about her marriage plans. What little I had to say, I wanted to do it fast.
But nothing went to plan. Neither did I flail and lunge trying to steer the conversation to my earlier intentions. Patricia talked animatedly. I listened – with great interest.
At the end of our conversation, I did ask her if her fiancé was going to convert to the faith. She shook her head, a shadow passing over her face. It was clear that I had put my finger right on the pulse of Patricia’s struggle with her mother. Her answer should have upset me. Yet, with a strange firmness, I heard myself say,
If he ever converts, let it be only because he loves Jesus.
And he will love Jesus – through you,
I watched the light return to Patricia’s eyes.
Driving home with my husband afterwards, I gazed at the undulating road ahead and wondered what on earth had happened at church. Then, I remembered,
Trust in Me,
I leave my heart sealed in Your Tabernacle
In a silken sureness, I understood. I had given my heart to Jesus. In return, I was freed to do His will.