Today Beth visited the immaculately clean, Espinoza Ranch stables where a few horses were being groomed, the tack saddle soaped and silver ornaments polished. It had a nice, fresh smell of drying grass. Beth noticed a beautiful photograph of Isabella when she was quite young, with her father, in their bright Escaramuza costumes. There was another photograph of the girls circling their horses in unison. Isabella appeared from the tack room and smiled. “Hi. You look nice,” she said, noticing Beth’s skirt. Then the girls were off on another adventure. They skipped down to the creek to catch pollywogs.
The path was steep, so they stepped carefully past jutting gray rocks, grasping thick clumps of lush river grass, to keep their balance. It was nice to have a private stretch of creek flowing through the ranch. The water was clear, with pebbles of pale colors-gold, sand and jade green, seen as through an old, wavy pane of glass. Brown marbles with wiggly tails shot from rock shadows across pebbled stream bed.
The girls had brought glass jars with them to capture the skittery amphibians. They took off their sandals and tied their flowing skirts just above their knees at the side. Then they waded in the water and stood still, a short distance from each other. Soon the tadpoles grew brave and swam between the girls. A few nibbled at these strange pillars invading their watery abode.
Beth scooped up a large tadpole. Then Isabella scooped up two small ones. Adding some moss to the jars, the girls replaced the lids, stepped onto the sandy bank, untied their skirts, put on their sandals, and walked home from the willow lined water.
On the way back, Isabella asked, “Did you ask your parents if you could come to Mass with me?” “Yes, and they said I could, just this once,” Beth said. “Oh good,” Isabella beamed. “My father said he could pick you up at your house. We should be there at 9 am tomorrow.
A now tamed (well, half tamed!) Beth, dressed in her little peach colored suit, which her mother had sewn for her, with the slightly puffed sleeved jacket and a soft A-lined skirt. She had a turquoise, silk scarf in a little poof tied at her neck. As they arrived at the pretty church, Isabella brought out a beautiful, lacy, cream colored mantilla and arranged it on Beth’s head with a little white comb. Isabella had a lovely bright white lacy mantilla that fell to her waist, secured with a tortoise shell comb. It complemented her white dress with the pink waist band.
As soon as Beth entered the Church, she noticed everyone dipping their fingers in a little bowl of water, kneeling and making a sort of sign. She wondered what she should do. Mrs. Espinoza whispered, “You are our guest. You are not expected to do anything but sit and listen”. It smelled nice in the church. The chanting was comforting. A soft glow seemed to radiate throughout that place. Beth grew quite comfortable, enjoying the music and strange words for a time.
All of a sudden, the row of people in front of her got up and started leaving! Then the Espinoza family, filling the row, stood up. Beth wondered where everyone was going and stood up to follow. Mrs. Espinoza leaned over and whispered gently and kindly, “No, Beth. You may not come with us. We are going up to the Altar and only Catholics may come”. Beth felt very deserted and flushed with embarrassment. Noticing Beth’s look of consternation, Mrs. Espinoza whispered, “Don’t worry. We will come back in a few minutes. We won’t leave you alone.”
Beth sat down. The pew was now empty. She felt so alone! “Strange,” she thought, “I usually like being alone.” She looked past the rows of people in the pews in front of her, but she couldn’t see Isabella or her family. She longed to be with them and had never felt such a deep longing before. What were they going to this “Altar” for? What was there? She sighed, resigned to just wait and not be foolish. It was only a short wait.
She closed her eyes, deciding to just enjoy the atmosphere. As she opened her eyes and gazed, she saw the most beautiful stained glass window past many glowing candles. She had not noticed the candles and window before. Now two figures seemed to come out of the most brilliant ultramarine blue and ruby red glass panels. A man seen from the waist up with a beard and long brown hair and soft brown eyes, seemed to move forward, like a royal, living person. A red glow seemed to move and pulsate in his chest, beating, very etheric and pure A lady was beside him, resembling the man somewhat in features, yet softer and very womanly and as a gracious, kind yet noble lady. She too moved forward, beside and with him, as a living person, also with a glowing red pulsar at her chest. Colors of blue, gold and ruby with turquoise, little flames of yellow and other glints of color animated the scene. It was the most remarkable stained glass window Beth had ever seen. She wondered if these were Saints.
Then the Espinoza family filed back. Beth hardly noticed them and sat in a golden, rosy glow until it was time to leave. As they started to leave the pew, towards the back entrance, Beth wanted terribly to see the stained glass window close up. She suddenly turned away from the family and, against all the people leaving the church, she weaved past them to a railing. She looked intently, but she did not see the window! She only saw a white wall past ordinary candles on a rather ordinary shelf. They must have extinguished the other candles and taken them away. “So quickly!” thought Beth. She looked to the left. Maybe it was in a side aisle and was reflected at the back which would explain its motion on the wall.
Isabella was right after her and took her by the hand, firmly. “What are you doing? We leave by the same way we came in!” Beth said, “I’m looking for the stained glass window. It’s so beautiful. Where is it?” Isabella just looked at her, incredulous. “It must be in the side aisle and reflected on the wall. Where is the entrance to the side aisle? There must be pillars there to go past. Where are the pillars? The people must be covering them, there are so many people.” Isabella said very firmly, “There is no side aisle! There is no stained glass window reflecting on the wall behind the altar!” Come on with me! She held Beth’s hand very strongly and pulled her puzzled friend out of the church.
Back at Isabella’s home, refreshments were served. Beth wandered into Isabella’s room, still wondering that no one knew where the stained glass window was. Then she saw a small card, flat, on Isabella’s dresser. It looked kind of like the two people in the window, but very painted, pale and pasty. Hardly real at all.
Isabella came in with a stern look on her face and sat on her ruffled bed under the canopy. “Now,” she said, “tell me exactly what you saw!” When Beth described the two people, Isabella’s eyes expanded into shock, then grew moist, tears forming in big droplets, falling on her flushed cheeks. “Mama!” she cried out, running from the room. Beth looked in wonderment after her friend. What did she do wrong? She heard Isabella down the hall, crying with anger. She had never seen her friend angry before, not ever! Not composed Isabella! Isabella cried out to her mother, “How can she see Them? Why her? I pray every day to Our Lady, longing for Her to appear to me! She’s never even been to Mass before and She appears to her with Him!!” Sobs followed. Beth was so sad. She was so sad for her friend, tears formed. She must have done a terrible thing. She still felt that gold glow, but was hurting for her friend and quite confused.
She heard Mamacita speaking softly to Isabella. Soon Isabella stopped crying. She spoke softly to her mother. Then she walked slowly into her bedroom where Beth was sitting on the vanity chair. Beth said, “I’m so sorry I ran to the altar and that you didn’t see the stained glass. Maybe we should go back to the church and look for it.” Isabella smiled understandingly. She said, “No, Beth. It was a vision of Our Lord Jesus and Our Lady Mary and their Sacred and Immaculate Hearts and it was meant for you. I did not have it because I have Mass every Sunday, every day if I like, and my Rosary. You don’t have these things so you need this vision to be with you until you can. I’m happy that you have it.”
Beth felt very relieved. Then Mrs. Espinoza came in and asked Beth to tell her what she saw. Beth did and Mrs. Espinoza said, “Well, Beth, I feel that it will be a long time for you because of your circumstances. Your parents have only allowed you one Mass and you must obey your parents. However,” and then Mrs. Espinoza looked very seriously into Beth’s eyes, “Our Lady Always Triumphs!”
It seemed as if these words seared an indelible impression into Beth’s heart and she treasured them, remembering a distant sentence heard as a small child. Mary had kept things secret in her own heart. She would keep this a secret in hers. Then she got up and everything was normal. Yet, she always remembered this vision when life’s troubles came and it always calmed her.
To be continued….
Photo #1 Escaramuza father-daughter. #2 Escaramuza #3 Veils #4 Latin Mass.