Saturday mornings as a kid were spent at Catechism classes, learning our Baltimore Catechism lessons by rote, the nuns with their giant crosses displayed on their habits, teaching us the difference between venial sins (the kind that would leave stains on my pure soul) and mortal sins (the really bad stuff). They did a great job, at least with me. Although I couldn't recite a bit of the Baltimore Catechism today, those Saturday mornings were not wasted. I developed a rich and full faith life, one that has continued to evolve, sometimes a bit stagnant, others times growing with a fervor.
Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to
entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares". (Hebrews 13:1-2)
Kneeling in church, praying, my young self was overwhelmed at the very idea that I could be loved unconditionally, that I could seek forgiveness with a sorrowful heart and receive not just that forgiveness, but unconditional, non-judgemental, all-encompassing love. It filled my heart with a genuine awe, similar to the awe I would feel when I'd try think of the vastness of the Universe.
Humbled by that love, I would pray to God to show me how I cauld express my love for Him, how I could show my deep appreciation for the life I'd been given. I asked Him to give me little opportunities to do some kindness for another, as a way to show my love for Him, by serving one of His children whenever I could.
Over the years, He has graciously granted me my wish. Little opportunities to help a stranger here and there have always had a way of materializing in my life. Each time, I recognize God's Hand in giving me that opportunity, sometimes through a friend's call, or seeing a random stranger who could use a bit of friendly help. Each time, I give thanks to God for letting me show Him in some small way how very grateful I am each day.
Last week - Mother's Day - the grands and I went to the cemetery to take flowers for my mom, clean up her headstone and pray in the beautiful, shady cemetery. When we were done, the girls went back to the car while I knelt at the grave for a bit more.
As I later walked back to the car, I noticed a slender Vietnamese woman at a nearby grave. I saw her pour a cup of water on a headstone, tear off some paper towels from a roll, drop them on the grave and, still standing, begin to use her cane to clean off the headstone.
Approaching her, I asked "Can I lend you a hand?" and I knelt down and wiped the paper towels across the headstone's surface. She happily thanked me and told me that I would be amazed at how she uses her cane for all kinds of chores and housecleaning. My oldest granddaughter knelt, too, to help me with the clean-up.
There were pictures of three women on the headstone: her mom and two sisters, she responded when I asked about them. As I worked, we chatted about her hometown in Vietnam and her family. I asked her about the inscription on the stone, written in Vietnamese, learning the message was about how they would be forever loved. I finished up my work, she thanked me again and the girls and I headed to the car.
I sometimes wonder if these little opportunities are real people ... or if perhaps they're angels on a mission, angels answering the prayer of a little girl so long ago ...
Thank you, God.