Una Bendición

July 24th, 2022

Asher was restless early on Sunday morning. My 19-month-old grandson wanted to get out of our room at the retreat house and go places. He didn’t want to go very far, but he needed to move around.

We were staying at the Coury House, the retreat center at Subiaco Abbey in western Arkansas. Karin and I have been going there for many years, but this was Asher’s first visit to the place. There really isn’t much at the abbey to entertain a toddler, but it was all new to Asher, so he remained interested in his surroundings.

Subiaco monastery is built on top of a tall hill in the Arkansas river valley. The Benedictine monks run the abbey. It’s off the beaten path, and it has a remarkably peaceful environment. For a person with a spiritual or religious nature, it is an excellent place to rest and recharge.

Coury House is built into the side of the hill. For some reason the first and second floors are located well below the crest of the hill. The third floor and the lobby are on the top of the hill, and that is where visitors first arrive. Our room was buried deep into the first floor. It was a nice room, but its window had a view of a concrete wall. Asher did not like to hang out there.

I had thought that Asher would want to run around the hallways and burn off some energy. No, what he wanted to do was to have me carry him up two flights of stairs to the lobby. with reluctance I did that. It was just as well. Asher is not very good yet with navigating stairs and he wasn’t wearing any shoes.

When we got to the top of the stairs, I stood in the lobby with Asher sitting on my right hip. He gazed around and showed no interest in going down on the floor. I looked down one of the hallways and saw two women walking slowly toward us. Both of them were dressed modestly, wearing long skirts. They appeared to be Latinas. I could hear them speaking Spanish together as they approached us.

Their faces lit up when they met us. One of the women was of medium height with her graying hair pulled back into a bun. She held a Bible in her arm. The other woman was young. She was a tiny lady. She had long, black hair with large dark eyes. The younger woman had a beatific smile. She had an expression of childlike innocence.

The older woman asked me, “¿Hablas español?”

I replied, “Un poquito.”

She nodded. Then both women started talking to me rapidly in Spanish. Apparently, when I told them that I spoke a tiny bit of Spanish, they assumed I was actually fluent. I struggled to follow what they were saying. My Spanish vocabulary has diminished significantly in recent years.

They asked the name of my grandson. I told them “Asher”. Then the smaller woman asked me my name. I told her “Frank”. She looked a little confused until the older lady told her “Francisco”. The younger woman nodded and smiled.

“Si, Francisco.”

They both looked at Asher and me with joy. The two chattered in Spanish and I only caught a few phrases, like: “un niño hermoso” and “muy bien”. I told them that I was Asher’s ” su abuelo”, his grandpa. They smiled again.

The small woman looked lovingly at Asher, who looked back at her with interest. She asked me, “¿Besar? (Kiss?)”

I nodded. She stroked Asher’s leg and touched his right foot. She stooped a bit and with exquisite tenderness kissed it.

Then she asked me again, “¿Besar?”

I thought she wanted to kiss Asher again, so I nodded.

She didn’t kiss Asher.

The woman stroked my left arm gently. Then she reached down to kiss my hand. A tremor ran through me.

The two of them came close to us. The older woman placed her right hand on my shoulder. The younger woman did the same with Asher. They prayed over us. I don’t know what they all said. I heard the word “corazon (heart)” spoken repeatedly. It doesn’t really matter what they said. A benediction can be recognized in any language. They blessed us.

After their prayer, the two women left the lobby and headed toward the church.

I never saw them again.

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