Prior to our departure for Rio I had the opportunity to gather with the group of 31 that would be representing our Diocese there. In the few thoughts I shared with them prior to a blessing for pilgrims I told them they could expect difficulties along the way; they could expect that some things would go wrong, but that when it was all said and done they would see that those trials were the moments when God was most clearly with them.
Well, it didn’t take long for those difficulties to begin. When we arrived in Atlanta from El Paso we soon learned that our 10:00 p.m. flight had become an 11:00 pm flight. Then it became a 1:00 a.m. flight, and, finally, after we had waited several hours, we were informed that the flight had been postponed until the next morning. This was a big disappointment because it meant that we would not make the opening Mass for World Youth Day. The Pope would be there, but we would not. Then there was also the hassle of spending a night without the things that were packed in our checked bags, finding a way to the hotel where the airline was putting us up, etc.
As we were focusing on ourselves trying to figure out our next step, a young woman approached us. She had heard us speaking in Spanish and was wondering if we could explain what was happening. Traveling alone from Guadalajara, Mexico on her way to World Youth Day, it soon became clear that she was really feeling lost in a foreign land with only a few words of English. I quickly informed her that she was hereby adopted. Meanwhile other members of our group were speaking with another stranded pilgrim on her way to the events in Rio alone. We adopted her as well.
Soon we were introduced to our two new members: Cristy, from Mexico and Brenda, from Dallas. As a group we made our way to the hotel arriving after 1:00 a.m. Along the way I discovered that Brenda looked familiar for a reason: I had met her before due to her prolife involvement in Dallas. Cristy matter-of-factly told us that she was a vocalist who was catching up to her band to sing at World Youth Day. Her full name was Cristy Villaseñor, a well-known Catholic Contemporary singer in Mexico.
That night after we arrived at the hotel and before we all headed to our rooms for the few hours the night would still allow us, we gathered in a corner of the lobby to pray. I asked Cristy if she would sing one of her songs as part of our prayer. She opened her mouth to sing and the most angelic sounds came forth in a heartfelt musical prayer. Everyone in the circle was moved to hear what came forth from the stranger in our midst.
The words of the Letter to the Hebrews entered my mind: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:2) How true, but in this case I think the angel entertained us!
+Bishop Mark J. Seitz