Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Child in White

I had a dental appointment that day, years back when I lived in Brooklyn, at the office of a small dental group at the corner of Avenue D, about a block from Little Flower church and school.  I was getting ready to go, putting on my watch and rings, when a strange impulse came over me, somewhat like a temptation, to remove my crucifix pendant or hide it under my blouse. It was an intrusive thought, an irrational one, that I should not draw attention to my faith, especially since the dentists were non-Christian.  I considered taking it off, but feeling somewhat abashed by what had gone through my mind, I decided to keep the cross on my neck in plain view. 

When I arrived at the dental office, I noticed there were some people ahead of me in the waiting room, and in the fifteen or so minutes I had been there, a few others arrived.  I had been going through the magazines that were on the table, looking for something interesting to read.  Whenever I would go to the dentist as an adult, it was nostalgic for me to look for an issue of Highlights for Children, since, as a child, it had been my favorite magazine, and it seemed to be available only at dentists' offices. What I liked best was Goofus and Galant, a cartoon contrasting two little boys, one who did not behave properly and the other who made the better choice.  It was nice to see that the magazine was still in publication and that the Goofus and Galant cartoon was there to inspire new generations of children.

I would glance up each time I heard someone come through the door, and then I would go back to reading, I hadn't heard or seen anyone else come in, but I suddenly sensed that someone was there. Standing before me was a beautiful little black girl, about six or seven years old.  In contrast to the sea of blue jeans I saw around me, she was wearing a wedding-white dress which fell below her knees but not quite to the floor, and she looked like an angel. She spoke to me and said only these words:  "Jesus loves you."  I said, "Yes, and He loves you, too."  I immediately made the connection between my earlier quandary about whether or not to wear my cross and this surprise encounter. I thought that if her mother were there, I wanted to exclaim what a beautiful little girl she has and tell her what she had said to me!  I looked around the room, but saw only the same people who had been there before, and I wondered how it could be that this little child was unaccompanied by an adult, and why she was dressed this way to go to the dentist.  

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved holy cards, and today I have a treasured collection of both laminated and beautiful vintage die-cut and embossed holy cards.  Some were given to me by the Mercy nuns who taught me when I was attending Little Flower School.  I, in turn, passed on the tradition when I became a teacher and gave holy cards to my students as little rewards or when they made donations to the help support the missions.

I carried a particular holy card in my wallet.  It was a three-dimensional card of the Face of Jesus, and when tilted slightly it became the Face of the Holy Shroud.  One year I had bought these holy cards as little gifts for my class. Being accustomed to giving holy cards to children, I thought I would give one to this extraordinary little girl who spoke of Jesus, but I wasn't sure if I still had one or if I had given the last one away. Searching through my handbag, I was happy that I readily found the card in my wallet, but when I looked up to give it to her, she had disappeared. Where could she have gone within less than half a minute?  I even looked outside, but I didn't see her. 

Who this angelic little girl?  Did she see me reading Highlights for Children, and is that why she approached me?  How is it that she seemed to mysteriously appear and disappear?  I do not know, but when I wear a cross on my neck, never since have I been tempted to remove it for any reason.

"So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven."  (Matthew 10:32)

Joan Virzera

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