I've been meaning to write about a rather extraordinary thing that happened to my husband and me, on a rather ordinary day, while we were doing ordinary things. I don't know why I didn't write about it immediately after it happened, so that I could tell it in sharper detail, remembering the exact words that were spoken by all the players. But I'm afraid now that if I don't tell it, it'll grow too fuzzy in my mind to repeat. (Although considering the circumstances, that isn't likely.)
So here it is: a true story about the Holy Eucharist--and its power over even those who don't comprehend its significance.
We didn't mean to eavesdrop, but it wasn't a very big bus. And before long, one of the gals was gossiping about a wedding she'd gone to not too long ago, and how weird and awkward it was standing-sitting-kneeling-standing-sitting-kneeling her way through a too-long Catholic nuptial Mass. There was some "OMG-ing," some chuckling, and some joking about how crazy those Catholics are--you know, the whole "What's that stuff all about, anyway?" This was a tad annoying, of course, because it always stings when I hear the Faith denigrated and made fun of by people who don't understand it and certainly don't love it. But whatever; so far, it was pretty easy to ignore the prattling going on, and to just do some mental eye rolling and silent sighing.
Then the gal who'd gone to the wedding told her girlfriends that she'd gone up for Holy Communion. Unfortunately, the presiding priest hadn't instructed the guests that if they weren't Catholic, they should just come forward with arms folded to receive a blessing; or if he had instructed them, she hadn't been listening. So she found herself sort of trapped in a line going up, and when the priest put the consecrated Host--the Body and Blood of Christ!--in her hand, she didn't know what to do with it. So she ended up putting it in her purse, and she'd been carrying it around in there for weeks!! At this point, I felt myself go all cold inside, and I looked at the floor, feeling shocked and sad. She kept talking about how she'd asked Catholic friends what she should do, and no one had any good advice to give her. She mentioned that she was worried now that it probably had make-up on it from spending all that time in her bag.
My husband, God bless him, spoke up. "Hi, listen, I'm a Catholic. You shouldn't be carrying that around. You should take the Host to a Catholic priest. Or if you have a Catholic friend who knows one, have them take it."
At this unexpected instruction, the girl looked appreciative, but also a bit shame-faced. My husband proceeded to assure her that no one would be angry--in fact, he told her that everyone would be happy if the Host was returned to someone who knew what to do with it and would treat it with the respect it deserved. She thanked him, and we all exited the bus when it reached the terminal.
Then my husband realized with a jolt that he should have taken it himself, to be absolutely sure that she didn't just continue to carry it around. So he hustled over to where she and her friends were checking in and said, "I can take that Host for you." And God bless her, she agreed to give it him. She reached into her purse and produced a small, soft-sided mini-purse made to hold credit cards and whatnot. And the Sacred Host was in the outer pocket of this purse, inside a see-through plastic sleeve meant to hold a driver's license or some other sort of picture ID. It was not covered with make-up, as the girl had feared it might be. It was clean, having been protected by the plastic. But it was broken.
Here's the amazing thing, though: after being carried around in that woman's purse for weeks, the Host was broken cleanly into three pieces, one slightly larger than the others, with no crumbs in sight. It was broken in three, like the Trinity. To my husband and me, that seemed nothing short of a sign from Heaven.
My husband made a Sign of the Cross and consumed those three pieces, and we both finally felt at peace. Had he not caught up with that woman and asked her to let him have that precious Host, we both would have always wondered what had happened to it.
We've talked about this incident several times since it happened. In spite of the fact that the non-Catholic woman seemed very disparaging about the rituals of Catholicism, my husband likes to point out that there was something about that Host that made her feel as if she couldn't just throw it in a garbage can. She didn't believe what we believe, yet something about it spoke to her and made her realize that it was not just run-of-the-mill bread. And something made her bring up the subject of her embarrassing Catholic wedding faux pas within earshot of a guy who loves Our Lord more purely and deeply than anyone I know, and who would know just what to do about her situation.
Whenever I remember that extraordinary ordinary day, I get chills. My husband and I both believe that it was no accident that we were on the same employee bus with that particular woman on that particular day...and that something compelled her to tell her story, so that we could hear it. God does indeed work in mysterious ways!