"The stench of his body was readily apparent, but I embraced him carefully and, hugging him, kissed both cheeks."
When I attended Mass with my mother one Sunday, I could never have imagined receiving such an extraordinary gift.
We entered the church as the liturgy was about to begin. All the pews were occupied except for one. My gaze immediately fell on the person who had the whole pew to himself. My mother and I sat down next to this man, keeping about a foot and a half distance from him.
The stench of his body was easily detectable. No doubt he was a poor beggar. His head heaped on his frail torso like the head of a wire doll. His face was so dry and his bones were visible. His right hand, as if dead, rested on a sling. Soon, two other people sat on his right side and the bench filled up.
A hug with a beggar
I saw him carefully holding the envelope in which he had his monetary offering prepared when the offertory tray came around, and it touched my heart. I knew that God loved him; from the first moment I knew it. And therefore I loved him.
But the Lord was about to ask something more of me. I felt Jesus speak to me in my heart and ask that when the moment came to pass the sign of peace, I was to embrace and kiss this beggar, in His name. Some reluctance entered into me, so unpleasant was the stench! But once I accepted it in my heart, I stopped smelling it.
During the consecration, I thanked God for placing me by this man’s side. The moment had come. I kissed my mother first and then turned my body towards the man. He offered me a weak and emaciated hand. I embraced him carefully and, hugging him, kissed both cheeks. What immense joy I felt! It was like kissing Christ Himself.
Then I told him that I kissed him because the Lord had asked me to. We smiled at each other, and he said in a broken voice that he already knew that because he felt it in his heart. How to express so much happiness!
I could not receive Communion
I sat down and continued to thank God. While others were receiving Communion, I prayed to my Heavenly Father. I strongly desired that this man, who is so close to Jesus, receive the Blessed Sacrament for me. [Editors note: There are various reasons one may not be able to receive Communion, which seems the case for this writer.] Lo and behold, once again my Lord heard my request as unexpectedly, the man who was already in line for Communion turned around, came up to me and asked:
“Won’t you receive the Eucharist? “(I knew it was the Lord Himself asking me, and a tremendous light lit up my soul.)
“I cannot receive Communion. Would you be willing to do that for me?”
“Of course, today and every day of my life, I will receive the Blessed Sacrament for you. What is your name?”
“I will always remember, Mercedes.”
And there I was, alone in the pew, among those receiving Communion, and yet more filled by God than ever. Coming out of Mass, I saw him on his knees, his gaze humbled, begging in silence. I approached and said:
“Thank you very much. What is your name?”
“Francisco,” he answered.
A touching farewell
He struggled to get up to say goodbye to me, saying: “You made me very happy by hugging me and smiling at me. You made me very happy.” But I was the one thanking him for wanting to receive Communion for me that Sunday.
My mother met him two more times. He told her he was writing me a letter, but then she didn’t see him anymore. I never received that letter. I’m sure he died as his health was clearly very frail. Since that day during the consecration I always have him in my mind and I say to the Lord: “I commend Francisco to You. Open to him the gates of heaven, and during Your judgment be mindful of the precious act of love he has shown me.”
At first I thought I was there to help him, but he was the one who helped me to draw closer to Christ. I now carry him always in my heart.