(Ninth of a series)
”Sister, do you speak Italian? Can I talk to you? I am angry with God.” I turned my head and it was a beautiful lady, elegantly dressed. I thought, “She has tortured eyes.”
I AM suspending my idea series for a Bucket To-Do List for the time being to share a story told to me by Sister Anna.
A little back story…
Anna Cinco was a classmate in high school who graduated way up the rungs and copped a college degree majoring in Mathematics. She taught at the International School in Manila for a while and decided to join the religious life thereafter.
She lived in Rome for more than a decade working on the canonization of Mother Candida Maria de Jesus, foundress of her religious order, Hijas de Jesus. Mother Candida is now a saint with documented miracles ascribed to her intercession. Sister Anna speaks Spanish and Italian fluently.
Her story is not cut and dried as all that. There are twists and turns in every life story and hers is no different. She told me the Cliff Notes version of her conversion from someone who repudiated and did not need God at one point. But that riveting story when she became, as she describes how her young, irrepressible students at the International School saw her at the time of her epiphany, “positively radiant,” is for yet another day.
I reconnected with her on a trip to Europe in 2011 with my husband spending a wonderful spring day in Rome: dusting off the cobwebs of the past, cracking jokes (yes, religious people have a squeaky clean sense of humor that will have you ROTFLOLing, that is, rolling on the floor laughing out loud), scarfing down pizza margherita at one of those small joints by the Vatican and walking aimlessly about, shopping for Italian-made sandals on the sidewalks while slurping on scoops of gelato, all three of us looking positively ghetto. HAH! A perfect day in my book …
I emailed her just recently hoping to see her in Rome again this summer, mentioning in passing that I am putting together a Bucket List series of sorts.
Her story stuns me. It never occurred to me that while we are busy making plans, the Big Man upstairs also has plans. And whether we like it or not, we are part of His plan. It is up to each one of us to find out our part in God’s grand plan and decide to get in with the program or not. Yes, God loves us so much, He gave us free will.
So enjoy this story. The actions happened in airports just before boarding. Time was on her side. She checked in way early and didn’t miss her flight. We might be able to widen our perspective just a tad and realize in time that we are each a piece of colorful mosaic in God’s Grand Mural for HIS story about us.] He has plans, too.
By Sister Anna Cinco, Hijas de Jesus
In 2015 I had to make a 12-day trip to Spain and then a 9-day trip to Rome. Usually, for these short trips, I plan and make to-do lists way ahead, because I cannot afford to miss anything.
One day, as I was coming to the end of my stay in Salamanca, I was praying in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament. I took out my to-do list for Spain, checked it carefully, and saw that I had pretty much achieved what I had come for. I was very satisfied with myself, when the thought came to me, “I have a list, too.” Startled, I looked at the tabernacle.
“I have a list, too.”
“You have a list, Lord?”, I asked.
“Yes, I have a list.”
I pondered that for a few moments. Of course, He has a list.
So I prayed, “Make me open to Your plans, Lord. Give me a docile heart, a docile spirit.”
The day after, I left for Madrid for a 2-day stay. I had a few things more to do there. When the day of my departure for Rome came, since I was going to the airport alone, I decided to go early and leave a wide margin for the unforeseen. When I reached Barajas, I had almost the whole morning to wait. So I sat by my boarding gate and buried my head in a book about causes for canonization.
Suddenly I heard someone say, “Anna Cinco!” Surprised, I looked up – it was a young woman in jeans but wearing a silver cross like mine. She smiled and came over and introduced herself. She was a young sister of ours from the Dominican Republic who had been in one of our houses in Brazil, and said that she had met me in one of my trips there. (We have a cause for canonization which had been initiated in Brazil.) So I asked why she was in the airport, and she said she had just come from Rome where she had participated in the preparatory course for final profession, and that she was on her way to her boarding gate for her flight to the Dominican Republic. Since she was young and was not familiar with Madrid airport, and I knew her boarding gate was half an hour’s walk away, I insisted on going with her. We laughed and chatted along the way, and I was sorry to leave her at her boarding gate. I still had plenty of time before my scheduled flight, so without any hurry, I began walking back to my own boarding gate.
Then I heard a voice say in Spanish, “Sister, Sister!” And as I stopped and looked back, I saw a dark young man running towards me. And he said, “Sister, do you speak Spanish? Can I talk to you, please?” I wondered what for, but stopped. And he began to walk with me, and tell me about his problems. It was hard to talk while walking, and I was afraid we were getting too far from his boarding gate, so I invited him to sit down with me. He was a migrant worker from Mexico who had marital problems and did not know what to do. I listened to him in sympathy, and pretty soon he was in tears. I looked around with some embarrassment. People were beginning to look at us. I prayed for wisdom. After some time, he stopped and asked me, “Sister, is there still hope for us? for me?”
I directed that question to the Lord, and found myself saying, “Of course, there is hope for you. Look, I shouldn’t even be here. My boarding gate is half an hour away, on the other side of the airport. But the Lord brought me here because He wanted to reach you! So yes, there is hope for you.” I myself was surprised at my answer… His face began to clear, and then light up, and by the time we parted, he was smiling. He still emails me once in a while.
So I continued with my trip to Rome, still pondering what had happened. Toward the end of my stay in Rome, I did the same thing – tick off items on my list. Then, on the day of my departure, the Superior, who was bringing me to the airport, asked if I would mind leaving early for the airport, since she had to get back to the house for an appointment. I said, why, no, I would not mind at all. I always bring material to read.
So we reached the airport early, and I found that my boarding gate had not even appeared on the screen. I took one of the seats nearby. You know, those airport seats where people sit back to back. I had just opened my book, when I heard a voice behind me say in Italian, “Sister, do you speak Italian? Can I talk to you? I am very angry with God.” I turned my head and it was a beautiful lady, elegantly dressed. I thought, “She has tortured eyes.”
Saying, “May I sit beside you, then?”, I went over to do so. Then I saw that she was reading a Spanish book, so I asked, “Do you speak Spanish?” And she said she was from Argentina. “Fine,” I said, “I speak Spanish better than Italian. Let’s talk in Spanish.” And she began talking. I listened to her (prayerfully) for about an hour – it was a list of problems, sick family members, one trial after another, anger with God, etc. And I thought, looking at her, “Without those problems, she would be very self-satisfied, with no thought of God whatever, angry or not.”
So when she had come to the end of her list and was looking at me expectantly, I said, “So now you wanted to tell God how angry you are with Him?” And she nodded her head vigorously and asked, “Is that wrong, Sister?” I answered slowly, “I guess, when things were going right, you never talked to Him. Now you are angry with Him, but at least you are talking with Him, right?”
Her eyes flew open in surprise, then she began to nod slowly, and as she saw me smile, she began to laugh. We laughed together for a while. And I said, “Don’t you think God prefers this, than have you go back to ignoring Him?” Her face changed completely. And we continued talking happily, and she laughed heartily when I told her that story of St. Teresa of Avila, that in one of her travels,
“… her saddle slipped, and she found herself head down under the belly of a donkey as she crossed a stream. Complaining to the Lord of her treatment, she heard him reply, “Teresa, whom the Lord loves, he chastises. This is how I treat all my friends.” She replied tartly, “No wonder you have so few!” (http://www.paceminterris.org/experience-pacem/the-hermitages/st-teresa-of-avila/)
Time passed quickly, and I had to catch my flight. The lady had already told me her name (she was from Argentina but she was married to an Italian), and said she was so happy to have met me and talked with me. She invited me for coffee, but I had to go.
And as I walked to my boarding gate, I remembered that thought, “I have a list, too.” And I realized that had I fallen short of my to-do lists for Salamanca and Rome, the entire trip would still have been worthwhile if only for these two of His children…
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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org