I know God is all around us, and in some places it is easy to spot Him. Church is an obvious one. I often see God in nature. But I recently encountered Him in a place one might not expect.
I saw God in Las Vegas.
This post will be a long one so I am going to break it up into three parts: The Taxi, Church and the Strip.
Part One: The Taxi
My husband had a day of meetings and I had the day to myself. The Las Vegas strip is a familiar place to me, as work has taken me there often over the years. I am not much of a gambler and even less of a drinker so the shops, spas and restaurants are usually my main diversions. But instead of shopping or a massage, I wanted to find daily Mass.
I searched the internet and found the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer and made plans to attend their midday Mass. While I was poking around I also found that relics of Padre Pio, currently touring the USA, were going to be in Las Vegas that very week! My time in Vegas was short but I hoped to be able to catch a glimpse of those as well.
I hopped into a taxi and both the driver and the doorman seemed surprised that I had given an off-strip address. The driver inquired as to whether it was business or residence and I explained that it was a church. He said “Oh, yes, I have been there. It is a beautiful place.”
“Are you Catholic?” I asked him. “Yes, well Catholic and Orthodox, I don’t know. My mother was Catholic and my father was Orthodox. So I don’t know what I am.”
I told him about the relics of Padre Pio and that this was an incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity. He said he wouldn't go but his wife would be interested in seeing them. So I searched for the schedule on my handheld while he talked about life.
Turns out he had moved to the US thirty some years ago from France. His wife was a devout Catholic. He was deeply concerned about the state of affairs in his homeland, feeling that religious and ethnic tensions were tearing away at the France he once knew. “I don’t feel safe there. Here if you call the police, they come. In France, they don’t come.”
“I am so sorry, sir.” I said, truly meaning it. “I’ve been following what has been happening in France and I know it must hurt to watch your country deteriorate. I promise I will pray for France – and for you – when I am at Mass today.”
At this point the schedule of the Padre Pio relics appeared on my screen and I read it to my driver. Happily, they would be at the church his wife attends on Thursday of that week. As I inquired about the other locations for veneration, it became apparent that I would not likely have the chance to attend.
We had arrived at the Shrine, and my driver jumped out of the taxi and ran around to the back door. He opened my door and stood there, hesitating for a moment.
“Thank you so much, sir," I said, smiling as I handed him the fare. “Have a good day!"
“God Bless you” he said emphatically, but with the uncertainty of someone who doesn't use the term often . He looked at me and gave me a hug.
I wouldn’t see the relics of Padre Pio that week. But something told me that this fallen away Frenchman would.
I recently came into possession of a medal of Our Lady of Tears. I have a devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, experience wonderful peace and great graces by praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows so yesterday I decided to pray the very similar Rosary of Our Lady of Tears.
As I was meditating on the sorrows that Mary felt as she watched her most precious, beloved, sinless, innocent God-man son suffer at the hands of those He loves so much, a thought occurred to me.
There is another facet of Jesus’ Passion, and maybe one of the most painful of them all, that I had not yet considered: Jesus had to watch His mother suffer during His Passion. He saw her tears as she took in the agony he endured. Her heart undoubtedly broke a thousand times, for she understood the horror of it all far more than we can even today.
Imagine the love between this mother and Child, who is love itself. Any parent knows what it is like to watch your child cope with pain. That we would do anything to make the pain stop, but understanding that there are some hurts that we just can’t take away.
I had always reflected on Our Lady’s sorrows through the eyes of a mother. I simply can’t imagine what she endured to as she watched her Son, whom she loved so much, be beaten and spit upon, have his flesh torn from his body, be vilified, reviled and crucified by people He loved.
But I had never considered what Jesus endured watching His mother. I always thought it was so beautiful that she was there to support Him, never leaving His side. But He watched her agony too, and that no doubt tore his most Sacred Heart.
Thinking about it took me back to the night my father died, ten years ago. Despite poor health, his passing was somewhat unexpected. I thank God, for my father received many wonderful blessings that night. He received Last Rites from our parish priest, who we literally bumped into moments after hearing the shocking diagnosis that my father had just hours to live. He died surrounded by his entire family and his best friend. There was so much love in that room.
We left the hospital in a daze and drove home to a house that suddenly seemed to be the emptiest place in the world. My father was all around us – his half-finished crossword puzzle sat on the table – yet he was gone.
Though I was an adult, long married and living in another city, I slept that night in my parents’ bed. I laid on my father’s pillow and my heart ached for one more hug from the man I had loved more than anything else. I didn’t think I could hurt any more until I heard my mother’s quiet sobs.
It was the worst moment of my life.
I knew her heart was broken. She watched him suffer so much and now she had to say goodbye to the man who had been at her side for 46 years. I would have done anything to ease her pain, yet I knew there was nothing I could do to lessen her sorrow. I just laid there and whispered, “it’s okay Mom.”
Jesus felt that pain too. The pain of watching His mother’s heart break. It is heartbreak that I can only begin to understand because of that horrible night ten years ago.
He knew that He would die on the Cross. He knew she would be at His side. And she would receive His body.
From the Cross, He knew the mother He loved with all His heart would go home to an empty house.