There are a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head. None of them are particularly interesting enough to commit to writing. So, I will tell a story.
This story takes place twenty or so years ago when I was a young man. I was struggling with life as young men often do. Struggling with career, relationships, faith. I was working a job that wasn’t fulfilling on any level and had no obvious trajectory. Every day during my lunch hour, I would walk over to the Cathedral, sit quietly and pray. Every day. For months. And then years. I prayed for typical things, but what I prayed for most was opportunity. And hope.
At some point (I don’t recall when or how) I learned about the power of devotion to the Virgin Mary. I was raised a Catholic, so I was certainly aware of her importance to the faith, but I had never earnestly prayed to her. So, I started.
The Cathedral was always dimly lit, quiet and mostly empty. Occasionally, there were other petitioners but not very often. There were also pan-handlers to contend with. The Cathedral is open to all, including pan-handlers. I had been accosted on more than one instance by persons appealing for change while I prayed or meditated. It’s an awkward encounter because I am in church and therefore reminded that I should be charitable. The pan-handlers understand this, too.
One day, as I was sitting alone in my pew, I heard the doors to the Cathedral creek open behind me. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I expected to be asked if I could spare some changed. Typically, the pan-handlers are middle-aged black men. I turned my head and was greeted by a young white woman. She was timid and polite and handed me a medal of the Blessed Virgin. I don’t remember exactly what was said during the interaction, but I’ll never forget what she said when she handed me the medal: “She told me to give it to you.”
I had never seen that woman before. When I reflect on this moment, I wonder what motivated that woman, specifically. Was she compelled by a voice, a vision, a dream? Or just Christian confraternity and this is all a coincidence and I was just in the right place at the right time? And, what was she “told”, exactly?
I try to imagine the woman in a room praying and hearing the voice of the Virgin Mary tell her what to do. I try to imagine what the woman thought about hearing the voice. And then, how she felt when she found me alone in a Cathedral, presumably, just as she had been “told”. It’s miraculous.
That is true story.