Monday, November 14, 2011

Heaven Rejoicing

This past Saturday, I had the amazing opportunity to witness a dear friend of mine return to the sacraments after more than 30 years away. I asked her today if I could share her story and she agreed, so here it is!

Diane started working at the Veils by Lily office in May at the same time we initially rented out the space. My husband knew her from his second job during tax season, and when I started looking for someone to help me sew veils, he said he was pretty sure she had apparently been sewing for a very long time.

When I asked him to tell me more about her, he said he didn't really know much, other than that the managers at the tax office had been very impressed with her work ethic. As one of the "wavers" who would stand outside in the bitter cold trying to get people to go into the office to get their taxes done, she would stay outside for the entire length of her shift, only coming inside for brief bathroom breaks. My husband compared her to the other wavers, who would be outside for a while, come inside and chat for another while, go back out, come back in, and so on. The managers said she was the only waver would had ever lasted the entire tax season. Needless to say, I was very impressed, and without having even met her, I knew she was the right person to help me. 

All this happened at the same time that God led us to our little office in Liguori, a beautiful Catholic setting for our Catholic apostolate. It was just so fitting--we were even just down the hall from a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, the whole reason for our existence, and the reason for our veils. It was then that I knew... I just knew that Diane was here for a reason.

She even said so herself a few months ago. We were working away, talking about some Catholic issue she might have asked me about, when she said to me, "Lily, I just know that God put me here for a reason. I'm supposed to be here."

I remember sharing with her my love for the Church and most especially, the Eucharist, one Saturday morning over breakfast at the St. Louis Bread Co. We had just been to Mass together at St. Francis de Sales Oratory--I had wanted to show her a church where many other women wore veils to Mass. As we sat eating breakfast and making small talk, she took the conversation a bit deeper when she asked me if I'd been Catholic all my life. Poor Diane, she had no idea she would set me off talking for at least 15 minutes, barely stopping to take a breath! At one point, I remember distinctly thinking that I knew nothing about her faith background, which promptly made stop talking and asked her about herself. It was then that I discovered that she had received the sacraments as a child but had drifted away once she had reached adulthood.

On another occasion, we were working together at home when she asked me how Mass had been that day. I replied that it had been particularly touching, as it was the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. As I explained more about it at her request, she looked at me and asked me if I was kidding. I said no, it really was, but she had an incredulous look on her face.

"You won't believe what I did today," she said. I thought she was changing the subject.

"What did you do?"

"I had the urge to go into this Christian store, which is totally unlike me... and look what I bought." She pulled out from under her shirt a small cross hanging around her neck.

"And you know what's even funnier? Last night I had a dream that I went to confession."  

Now I couldn't believe it... and yet, I could, because I knew what kind of business God is in.

This past Friday, we were working together again and somehow the conversation turned to offering Holy Communion for our loved ones.

"I know you've mentioned going to confession in the past," I said, "and you know, you could go to confession today. Then you could receive Holy Communion and offer it for whoever you want."

"Okay... so what do I do? Where do I go? Who do I call?"

I gave her the phone number for one of our parish priests, whom I go to for confession often. Later that evening, her best friend, who also now helps me with veils, stopped by. When she heard she was planning to go to confession, she was ecstatic for her and asked her if she would go to Mass with her at 5 o'clock on Saturday evening. I remembered then that my midwife was supposed to come over in the morning, so my only chance to go to Mass on Saturday would be at 5 o'clock. "Well, what a coincidence!"

We all met at the church on Saturday evening, Diane having gone to confession (with my special group of Catholic mama friends eagerly praying for her, hundreds of miles away) and me running in just before Mass started. I whispered "Congratulations!" in her ear and gave her a kiss and a warm hug before I scattered to find a seat.

Right after the Holy, Holy, I had the most bizarre yet awesome feeling. Somehow, I had a flashback to my First Holy Communion, and I felt exactly like I did on July 5, 1995 at that precise moment in the Mass. It was like an acknowledgement that something transcendent was about to happen in receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ within my very being for the first time, something I had longed for for so long. Except it wasn't my First Holy Communion. In a sense, it was a "first" of Diane's, after so many years.

I received my Lord first, returning to my pew and kneeling just moments before it was Diane's turn. She tells me now that, right at that moment, about two people before it was her turn to receive, it hit her--this was it, and she just wanted to burst into tears. She says she felt a sudden rush of something, but she maintained composure, and the moment I saw Father raise the Host before her very eyes and then carefully give her Holy Communion, I cried. I couldn't stop crying.

I thought of all the times I had longed with such a burning intensity to receive the Eucharist, such that even walking up the aisle was a torturous wait... and I thought of how much more Christ himself did long to reach deep into Diane's soul and give her rest. I thought of the transcendence of the moment when earth is lifted up to heaven and we get to enter into real--not symbolic or imagined--communion with the very God of the universe, who draws us to Himself and longs to transform us from the inside out. I cried even harder.

When Mass was over, Diane came over to where I was sitting. We looked at each other's eyes, both filled with tears of joy, and hugged. We decided to celebrate by having dinner with the rest of the parish at the spaghetti dinner. I called my husband and told him to bring the kids, and we all (including Diane's best friend) celebrated.

It was a wonderful night.


  1. The source and summit of our Catholic Faith, The Eucharist! Welcome Home Diane!

  2. Thank you Lily for sharing this beautiful story.

  3. How truly beautiful. So uplifting. Thank you for sharing it. Glory to God.