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During Christmas of 1996, I was given the special Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe to prepare for at St. Luke the Evangelist School where I was a fourth‑grade teacher.
This was the very first time I did this Mass, and I knew it was a very special one.
That year, I had a student named Michael Feeser. Michael was a very good boy, and only on occasion would he challenge my level of patience. He had a good sense of humor, but by no means was a natural actor. I really contemplated who to choose to act the part of Juan Diego in the Mass.
When I selected Michael, he said he just didn’t think he could do it and he thought others would be so much better at it. I reassured Michael that I really wanted him to do this more than anyone else in the class. I told him he would do a great job.
It turns out Michael did do a wonderful job. He knew all his parts, and I can still envision him today gathering up the real roses we had in the Mass. This was a really special Mass for me that no one really knows about. I am not sure why I selected Michael. It could have been Providence.
I recall vividly watching Michael’s mother watching and really enjoying that play about the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The following summer, Michael died. To this day, I feel like Michael’s mother received the most special gift to watch her son at the Mass play the most important part of Juan.
This Christmas memory has always touched my heart. I could not have known what the summer was going to bring with the unexpected death, but somehow the Blessed Mother did, and she wanted that Mother to have this very special gift.
(Dr. Susan E. Israel is a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.) †