As I tell this story, keep in mind that the name, Maria, in Hebrew, means the star of the sea.
One day this past summer, I was playing with my three year old daughter on a beach not too far from my home. Regan was having fun digging in the sand as I stood over her watching her delight as she created her sand sculptures. It was then that a young woman, whom appeared to be in her mid twenties and dressed from head to toe in a blue and white makeshift dress of some sort, walked past us in silence. It was a very warm and sunny day and I could not help but think that this woman was way overdressed for the weather conditions, but at the same time I found the woman’s modesty to be rather refreshing in a culture that has become almost devoid of modesty. There was something peaceful about the woman that was hard to describe!
As I continued to play with Regan on the beach, I saw that the woman was walking back toward our direction. Upon reaching our location, she stopped, and pointing to Regan, said something like, ‘She is so beautiful!’ I thanked her for the compliment. She then said, “I’m a Catholic missionary.” Although I thought it strange for someone to initiate a conversation in such a manner, I welcomed her words as an opportunity to discuss my Catholic Faith and my interest in evangelization!
I responded, “I am a Catholic also. Aren’t we all called to be missionaries? The world is our mission field, isn’t it?” The woman seemed pleased with my response and smiled as she nodded her approval. I noticed that the woman spoke with an accent, so I asked her where she was from. She replied, “I am from Mexico.”
The woman went on to explain that she was on a mission at a local girl’s boarding school where some girls from her country were taking part in a summer program. We engaged in a very brief conversation about her mission at the school. As the woman spoke, I was drawn by the peace she seemed to radiate! At the end of our conversation, I asked the woman for her name and told her I wanted to include her missionary efforts in my prayers, to which she responded, “My name is Maria.” The woman then said goodbye and continued walking up the beach and eventually out of sight.
It did not strike me until I was driving home, especially since the woman had identified herself as Maria, that for whatever reason, I may have had an encounter with the Blessed Mother, not to mention the fact that the woman’s physical appearance reminded me so much of just about every image I have ever seen of our Blessed Mother during my lifetime. But why me? I don’t know! I only know that for the remainder of my life, I’ll always remember the day I encountered a woman who may have been the “Star of the Sea”!
An encounter with our Blessed Mother, or just a case of wishful thinking?