It was a beautiful summer day as we relaxed and chatted with friends while the children laughed and played in the creek. They proudly told us about their older son who had gone to Mexico to pursue his career in dentistry because it was much more affordable in their home country. Their son had told them about the new friends he was making. One of the girls he met astonished him by her behavior and attitude which didn’t quite match up with his conservative values, so he decided to step away from her. They were so proud of their son because he was able to perceive that it was not a good idea to pursue friendship or relationship with this girl. I could understand his caution, but I had a different perspective because I was once, ‘that girl’…
I was born in a small town in Quebec which was a great place to raise a family. Unfortunately, my parents divorced when I was only 2 years old, so I grew up with my mom and her partner, and only visited my dad once a fortnight. I always felt a lack of love and was not really introduced to Jesus. Although my parents were Catholics, and my mom made sure I received all my sacraments, she didn’t bring me to Sunday Mass, nor pray in the home, even the Rosary or Grace before meals. My faith was pretty basic. My father was Italian, but grew up in Canada. His mother was a devout Catholic and would never forget to pray every day. It’s a shame I didn’t follow in her footsteps…Yet God had other plans for me, I guess.
As I was growing up, I felt rejected by other kids because of my skin color. My mom is from Costa Rica so I wasn’t the typical French Canadian. However, I managed to make plenty of friends, although they weren’t all a good influence. As puberty hit, I developed into an attractive young lady who appeared much older than I was. I took advantage of this to become popular and had no problem getting boyfriends. My mom never really gave me the sexual education I needed and the environment I was living in was not a conservative one. As time went by, I suffered deception after deception. I felt empty. My “joy” was always temporary and soon enough, I ended up in someone else’s arms.
Search for Love
When I finished high school, I decided to take a year off and go to Costa Rica to live with my aunt before I started college. Since I already had a part-time job to buy my own fashionable clothes, make up, perfume etc, I saved money to fund the trip and learn Spanish in an academy. I arrived during the holiday season, so lots of festivities were taking place. Since my relationships with men were always ending badly, I had decided (at 18) that I was through with men. I resolved to spend time with family instead, but God, had other plans for me…
Five days after my arrival, my cousin took me to a restaurant-bar where he was meeting some friends. As soon as we sat down, a very handsome guy smiled at me. I blushed and smiled back. He asked if he could join us, and I accepted with pleasure. We both felt an immediate bond and arranged to meet again the next day, and the next, and the next and so on. Despite our cultural differences, we had so much in common and we were able to connect in a way we could not imagine. He told me, “What matters most to me is what’s in your head and what’s in your heart.” Nobody had ever said anything like that to me before.
William and I became inseparable. He even invited me to go to Mass with him before we went somewhere. Although I didn’t really pay attention, it still pleased me because I was with him. Then he invited me to go on a pilgrimage with his family to the basilica of Cartago that involved 4 hours of walking. Again, I didn’t really go because of my faith.
A Heart Poured Out
I was amazed to see thousands and thousands of people coming to the church, asking the Blessed Virgin Mary for a favor, or giving thanks for the favors they had received. It was incredible. Every one of them would enter the church, kneel down and walk on their knees all the way down the aisle until they reached the altar. When our turn came, I was feeling perfectly fine, but as soon as I knelt down, I felt like I was out of air. A big knot formed in my throat and I exploded in tears. I wept like a baby all the way to the altar. William looked at me, wondering what was happening, but didn’t say anything. Once we were outside again, his mom, Sandra asked me what had happened. “I don’t know,” I gasped. She said that Jesus had come to visit my heart. I knew she was right. It was like meeting someone you loved deeply after a long separation. Something supernatural, beyond my control, was taking over me.
From that moment on, I felt like a new person and my life was starting afresh. William took me to Confession for the first time since my Confirmation at 11 years old. My list was so long…I think the priest wanted to retire after hearing my confession. We have a lot of work to do he said!
William and I married 4 years later and God has blessed us with 3 beautiful boys. In 2016 we consecrated our family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. My faith has continued to grow. I started serving the Church in various ministries: most recently as a catechist. God has truly spun my life in a different direction. He continues to polish my soul, crafting me into His masterpiece. Even the challenging times are part of His plan. When I embrace my cross and follow Him, He leads me towards His kingdom. Jesus chose me to serve as He did. When I offer up little annoyances and humiliations in sacrifice to Him, He changes them into something more beautiful than I could ever imagine, as He has changed me. As I reflected on what my friends had said, I thought of the old me, how lost I was, and how completely God transformed my life through the catalyst of meeting William. I advised them to encourage their son not to reject a friendship too hastily, but to let God’s light shine into their soul. Maybe God has a plan.
Claudia D’Ascanio serves the Church remarkably through her active involvement in various ministries over the years. She lives with her husband and three sons in Calgary, Canada.