2. The Airport

Part Two in the series, My Summer Vacation 2010.

As soon as I threw some clothes on, Juan Diego grabbed my hand and yanked me out of the house. It was around 4:30 am and being summer the sun had just come up, but very few people were up with it. Juan Diego opened my car door and said, “Jump in; we’re driving.”

He then directed me and my car out into the country, away from any of the three area airports I knew about. We passed through streets with strip centers, streets with schools, and streets with housing developments, and then one cornfield after another to increasingly unfamiliar territory. All the while he kept urging me to drive faster.

We finally approached a small worn sign by an open field that read, ‘Ends of the Earth Airport’. Soon after we passed that strange sign I was told to stop the car and get out. I saw no other cars and certainly no airplanes, but I was too sleepy to argue. As I opened my car door Juan Diego appeared right in front of me. I wondered how he had gotten there so fast. Before I could stand up he looked me right in the eyes and said, “How much do you love God?”

I replied, “With all my heart and mind!”

“Then you’re a liar, I see. We’ll have to fix that!” he responded with the force of a bullet through my heart. “There’s only one way I can get you into that plane, confess!”he roared.

“I thought we were in a hurry. Are you actually asking me to confess right here and now?”

“You must always be ready to confess. If you aren’t aware of your transgressions, of the times you disappoint the Lord, when you fail to reflect His image, then how can you ever rise and fly?” he replied with a tinge of compassion in his voice to my great relief. “Start with how you don’t love God with all your heart. If you did, you wouldn’t give Him so little time compared to the time you give your family and friends, your work, and yourself. When given a choice, you rarely choose God. Is that all your heart?”

He then grabbed my hand, which was at the same level as his head and yanked me down to the ground, “Sit!”

I tried to get comfortable as I also tried to remember the times I cringed at my own words or thoughts. Juan Diego was right, I often put God last, and I was aware of all I said and did that probably offended the Lord, I even offended myself with my own thoughts, but either I quickly forgot or didn’t know what to do with the ugliness, or I didn’t have time to fix myself depending, perhaps too much, on God’s tolerance.

“Why do I get so angry with other people Juan? I don’t want to. I see the faults of others and I want to scream at them, instead I back bite them, extending their sins with my own to pollute the world even more.”

“Yes, the humans wear their faults like signs on their backs. It’s so easy to see the corruption of others and nearly impossible to see their own. Perhaps inviting others who know you best to your confession would be a good idea. You could confess each other’s sins, and if you both are willing to repent, I’m sure we would see all us angels smiling.”

“Gosh, I feel so naked telling you all this.”

“Exactly!” Juan Diego looked thrilled. ”That’s what I told you! Remember, you must be naked on this vacation. Come on; keep undressing; only the godly ‘you’ can fly. The rest you must leave behind.”

After another fifteen minutes of my undressing myself from the clothing of self-centeredness, selfishness, lack of trust, judgmentalism and arrogance, I actually felt much lighter, even buoyant.

No sooner had I finished confessing than a priest with a long white beard walked toward me as out of the nearby cornfield. He held an icon of Christ in his hand and asked me to kneel. He then covered my head with his stole and prayed for absolution. Together we said the Lord’s Prayer. I cried uncontrollably. The priest hugged me so warmly that I felt as if it was my father’s hug. Oh, how I long for my father’s hug all these years without him.

The priest turned to Juan Diego who handed him the chalice of pre-sanctified Communion. As the priest was praying I saw a vision of the crucified Christ lying diagonally in front of the chalice! I was awe struck and amazed. I had always known intellectually that Communion was Christ’s blood, but never before had I perceived His slain body offered to me as I did at that moment.

I was ready to fly.

7. Opus of Saints

This is Part 7 in the series, My Summer Vacation 2010.

We laughed and sang; we danced and ate sublimely delicious foods. We even swam in the lake and played volleyball. Merriment must have received its meaning from the first party for Mary. Hundreds of people dressed in white congregated from the four corners of heaven to celebrate August 15th, the 2,000th anniversary of Mary’s arrival. Of course I didn’t know who any of these people were, or rather had been in their old lives. Frankly, I didn’t have the nerve to ask. I was just so grateful to be among them, the happiest group of people human eyes has ever seen. Yes, there was wine at the party, plenty of wine but no one appeared drunk. It was also strange that night never fell. After a while, one by one the guests approached Mary to thank her with a kiss and a hug and then disappeared.

Juan Diego tugged at my shirt and told me that we had better head out too. I hated to leave but I was glad to have a reason to speak with Mary again. Of course she knew instinctively that I was about to depart so she first came over to me, and after a big mother hug, she looked me right in the eyes and said, “I will be listening for you. Go back and make me proud.”

I thought I would melt; a puddle of Evangeline, like a scoop of ice cream that fell off its cone and flattened into a little gooey raw pancake. Instead I hugged her back a few seconds too long to let her know how much I didn’t want to leave. Juan Diego yanked me away and waved good-bye while shouting to be heard over the cacophony of merrymaking. “I had better get her out of here before she makes a scene. “

Only this time Juan Diego and I were not walking alone. A lovely lady and a young gentleman were behind us. Juan Diego turned to see them and then stopped to let them catch up.

“Thank-you,” said the gent when they finally met-up with us. “I know you have somewhere to go; we don’t want to hold you up, so we’ll join you. We like to walk. My name is Paul and this is my sister Juliana. “

“Juliana! Oh, I am so happy to meet you,” I said with a hug. “Can you tell me how you did that?!”

“Yes, but we must keep walking. I was strictly ordered not to hold you up.” She replied.

“Good” said Juan Diego and recommenced his march on the path through a vast meadow of sun flowers that reminded me of Italy.

Paul walked silently beside Juan Diego. Juliana and I followed close behind.

It is here in my report that we should jump back to earth momentarily so I can fill you in on you why I was so thrilled to see Saint Juliana in heaven. It was August 17 and my little grandbaby Lilly Juliana was still not yet Christened, but we knew that she would be named after saint Juliana who was a very brave and faithful young lady of the third century when Christendom was united as one petal of faith in a whole weedy world of mean power grabbers and ignorance.

A girl would have to stretch very big inside to live up to the namesake of Juliana, a most stubborn and tough young lady if ever there was one. When the emperor Aurelian came to visit Juliana’s town of Ptolemais, her brother Paul, to show that his king was Jesus and no other, made the sign of the cross right smack in front of Aurelian. Aurelian had him arrested. The next day at Paul’s trial he openly confessed Christ which was a crime punishable by torture. Seeing the suffering of her brother Juliana denounced the emperor for his cruelty, so she was also taken into custody and tortured. More strong willed teens the town of Ptolemais had never known. Juliana and Paul refused to deny Christ as God and their Lord no matter how much they were beaten or burned. The emperor tried another tactic on her by offering to take her as his own wife; when she refused he sent her to a brothel. Juliana’s faith grew even stronger when every man who tried to have her was blinded. The enraged emperor then had her and her brother tortured some more and when the townspeople started to murmur against him for overreacting with these young people, Aurelian decided to end the debacle once and for all by having Juliana and Paul beheaded. That tragic episode was relatively short albeit intense; besides, their valor won them a place at King Jesus table every Thanksgiving Day.

Last August 17th, the feast day of Juliana, during my prayers, I had introduced to her myself and the baby. I asked her to please watch over little Juliana her whole life, to keep her safe and faithful too so that someday she and I could live together in heaven forever and ever as friends. I added that I would fast on that, her feast day, as Father Max instructed me, to invoke her help. Well, even to my surprise, Saint Juliana indeed heard me and got right to work choosing Andrea and George to be Lilly Juliana’s godparents.

“Juliana, please tell me how prayer works? Or was it a coincidence that Lilly Juliana’s godparents were chosen on your feast day?”

I used the energy of your prayer and fasting coupled with my feast day to catapult my efforts and make obvious the power of the Lord. Even as you prayed, I ran a search of all godparent possibilities, and frankly the options were few, probably because this match was perfect, no one could compete. I was rather pleased myself. Gabrielle is a tough cookie, just like me, that’s why I like her so much. It would have to be striking.”

Juliana replied, “Don’t be silly. You know how fast a computer works; when we are admitted here our original God-given powers are restored so we can respond with equal precision and reliability. That is, when circumstances warrant. In your case I knew that the key to little Lilly’s salvation was giving her good godparents and convincing her bio-parents of the power and reality of Christ.

The criteria for the selection was this:

  • Special relationship: Andrea was Gabrielle’s little sorority sister - check.
  • Orthodox: Andrea and George were Orthodox and married in the Church – check.
  • Additional secular and/or ecclesiastical bonds: George and Gabrielle were born the same week in the same hospital and after 40 days or so were presented to the Church on the same Sunday morning one infant in each of Father John’s arms- bonus check.
  • Additional family relationship: George’s grandfather had been a priest at their church when Gabrielle was a child- bonus check.
  • Post life relationship: Priest George and his wife are buried across from the grandmother and great grandparents of Gabrielle, Taki, Evangelia and your own mother, Maria. They know each other as they prepare for the bodily resurrection together. These family members also participated in the selection – double bonus check.

“Once Andrea was chosen the rest was easy. We planted the urge for Facebook in both ladies’ minds. They did the rest. Rest assured; this was not all my doing. The Lord Jesus approved every phase of the operation. He who said, ‘Go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, that your fruit may be lasting; so whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give it to you.’ He has seen your fruit and heard your prayers for your children. You did not mobilize me as much as He did. The angels and saints serve Him. We form a network of life and light to bring holy achievers, you call them aspiring immortals, into the real and lasting world of His kingdom.”

“Juliana,” I said, “After all these centuries in heaven, do you ever cease to be amazed at how the Lord operates?”

“No my dear, never, Paul and I must go now; I am afraid we are holding you up. When you go back to earth, remember that reading minds and hearts is the key to the functionality of prayer and is how we communicate here. If you want to be able to live here with us, prepare. Remember when He said through Matthew, ‘Be pure in heart.’ He meant not to allow or accept anything in your mind which is not in alliance with perfection in Christ. I hope to see you and little Juliana and all of her parents here someday! Yes, I will personally be watching over them all. That little Nicholas is a pistol isn’t he?”

With that, Juliana and Paul disappeared leaving me with Juan Diego in a meadow of sunflowers feeling awe struck.