The Morning Miracle | A Short Story By Sophia F. Olomi
This story was submitted for the 2015 Winter Quarter Short Story Contest. While it wasn’t a finalist entry, the judges enjoyed it, and felt it merited being shared with the community. Congratulations, Sophia!
It was cold on the evening of December 19. Snow was falling softly from the pale blue sky, and the old brick convent was surrounded by a winter wonderland.
The slight Colorado wind whistled through the trees and out beyond the mountains. A small trail of smoke slowly spiraled out of the tall chimney.
The distant sun was setting behind the purple mountains as night neared. Presently, all the sisters went to their rooms for another chilly night. Hours ticked away.
All the windows were dark with their curtains closed. All except one.
In the dimly lit room, the petite nun was writing in a book. The book looked very old. Its leather had grown worn and the pages frail.
The nun did not seem as old as the book in which she was writing. She looked to be in her mid 50s, and the hand that held the pen was small and strong.
She was lost in thought, her pen scratching away at the light yellow papers. Pretty green eyes, and a few wrinkles adorned her face. Looking at them, one knew that they were mostly wrinkles from laughter and many smiles, but there was sorrow lurking in those eyes of hers.
The nun was Sister Margaret. She was loved by all the sisters, and her cheerful nature made her a favorite with the children. She loved laughing and singing, the outdoors, and people.
Yet, as she wrote that night, the joyful Sister Margaret everyone knew seemed sad. She stared out the window at the falling snow and gave a sigh that was heard in the heart of the Heavens.
Looking out the window as she paused at another red light, all Margaret could see were tall buildings and palm trees swaying in the California sunshine. She had just graduated from Thomas Aquinas College.
She smiled as she remembered the proud looks of her family members who had flown from Colorado to be at the graduation.
She also remembered the surprised faces of her parents when she told them about her plan of finding a job in California. She loved the sunny weather and also wanted to relish in her newfound independence.
Turning into a neighborhood, she cruised past the houses in her small blue car until she found the right address. Trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach, she made her way up to the bright red door and tried to give it her most confident rap.
Once she knocked, she saw the doorbell to the right of her. Guess I should’ve used that, she thought gloomily.
She put on a bright smile, though, when the door swung open and a cheery voice cried out, “Why Margaret! You’re here! Come on in.”
“Hello Ida, thank you so much for letting me stay for awhile. It means a lot to me,” Margaret said kindly.
Ida laughed merrily. “Oh, it was no problem. My parents are more than happy to have you. Goodness! What a mess I am! Sorry, I was expecting you a little later, so that is my excuse.”
Ida released her red hair from a clip and tried to arrange the mass of curls. “Please, sit down,” Ida said, as she led Margaret to an inviting couch. “I am so happy you’re here. What fun we’ll have! I can hardly wait!” Ida chattered on, as she brought two Sprites for them to drink.
Margaret took a sip of her cold soda, before saying, “Well, you know, Ida, that I have come to find a job so I—”
“Yes, yes, yes! That is the best part! You see, I am looking for a job myself, and now with you here, it will be twice the fun!” Ida exclaimed happily.
Margaret smiled. She had expected Ida to still be a very happy person, due to her letters, but seeing her face-to-face showed Margaret that Ida was cheerier than all her letters put together.
It’s so good to see you after all this time! I’m so glad we have kept in touch!” Margaret said when a lull arrived in their conversation.
Ida brightened immediately. “We have been very good pen-pals, haven’t we? You look so much different than you did in the sixth grade—you are so pretty!” Ida exclaimed, then blushed and continued quickly, “Oh! Not to say that in the sixth grade you weren’t pretty…”
It was Margaret’s turn to laugh. “Well, it has been twelve years. You have changed much too, and I’m still very jealous of your red, excuse me, strawberry blonde, hair,” she said with a wink, remembering how her friend always insisted on calling her hair “strawberry blonde” instead of red.
Ida laughed at the remembrance. “You don’t have to call it that anymore. I have given up on the fact that my hair is decidedly red and nothing can change that.”
The next couple of hours were spent in lively conversation, and Ida gave Margaret the grand tour of the house.
“And here is your room!” she cried, as she flung open the door. The room was airy and spacious, with curtains at the windows, pictures on the walls, and two twin beds.
“Ummm…why are there two beds, Ida?” Margaret asked, puzzled.
Ida plopped down on one of the beds, saying, “Oh, well, we get to share a room. I hope you don’t mind. I promise to be very clean.”
Margaret slid her suitcases under her bed. “No, it’s no problem. It’ll be fun!”
The rest of the night went pleasantly. Mr. and Mrs. Phason were very hospitable people and were glad to see Margaret again.
Margaret was introduced to the two youngest of the family: Mark and Timothy. They were identical twins, and were very shy of the guest. Dinner went smoothly.
There was never a pause in the conversation, because Ida always had a steady stream of things to say. The night grew later, and soon Margaret went to sleep with a heart as light as her pillow.
“MARGARET! You will not believe it! Guess who just called!?” Ida cried as she woke up her snoozing friend the following morning.
“Who?” the sleepy girl asked, still trying to make sense of what her friend was saying.
“Okay, I’ll tell you, for you’ll never guess. So, Mom has been talking about my—well, now our—job search to a bunch of her church friends for the past few weeks to see if they knew of any job positions. Mom just got a call from one of the ladies, Mrs. Hyington, and she has a job for us at her bakery! What luck!” Ida exclaimed, clapping her hands together.
Margaret was happy to see her friend so glad about their extremely speedy job search. However, when Margaret thought of a job, working at a bakery didn’t exactly match up with her ideals.
She was looking for a steadier job that she could depend upon. She sat up on her bed and rubbed the sleepiness out of her eyes.
“That is very sweet of her, Ida. But do you think she would mind if I searched for a little? I wouldn’t want to offend her, of course,” she said after a yawn.
“Oh no, she wouldn’t mind. I’ll tell her. I’m sure she would still take you if you don’t find a job though,” Ida assured her.
Margaret decided to give it nine days so that she would be able to say a novena to St. Joseph.
“I know you will intercede for me, dear St. Joseph,” she prayed on the first night of the novena. For the next nine days she would look tirelessly, always telling herself that God would provide.
She had forgotten, though, that God can work in mysterious ways. For nine days she searched high and low, praying hard. Yet, nine days later she found herself putting on the “Sweet Tooth Bakery” apron.
“That will be ten dollars and thirty-seven cents, ma’am,” Margaret said, handing the lady a bag full of chocolatey donuts. When the lady left, she sat down on one of the pink chairs with a groan.
It had been a long day at the bakery, and there was more work to do than she thought. Well God, how am I supposed to make a good living off of a bakery job? she thought with a hint of anger. She always reminded herself that God’s timing was perfect, but sometimes she didn’t agree with perfection.
She was running the bakery all by herself. Ida had the day off because she was going to a party and wanted to go to the salon and get ready. “What is this?! Her third party this week?” Margaret said to herself as she energetically started scrubbing the pile of dishes. In the past two months, she had learned a lot about Ida.
First off, she figured out that she was very popular. Secondly, and most importantly, they didn’t exactly agree on Catholic morals and values. Margaret’s face flushed as she remembered their conversation from church.
They both had gotten into the car after Mass. “Well, I’m glad that’s over,” Ida said as she whipped off her lace veil and started the car. Margaret was slightly stunned at her friend’s remark.
“You’re glad that what’s over?” she asked innocently.
“Oh, you know, I’m glad that Mass is over, aren’t you?”
“Well, I am very glad I went to Mass, and I loved the homily Father gave, and I thought the choir sang beautifully.”
“I guess so. But anyway, I did my Sunday obligation and my parents can’t get mad at me for breaking one of them holy Ten Commandments!” she said laughingly, but stopped when she saw Margaret’s flushed face.
“Are you alright, Margaret? Your face is red!” she said as she pulled the jeep out of the parking lot.
God, what should I say? Margaret thought, as different ideas flew through her head.
“Is it what I said about Mass? Oh come on, Margaret. Lighten up. It’s fine that you like it and all, but that doesn’t mean I have to. I still go and do my commitment,” Ida said when they reached a red light.
“Why don’t you like it, Ida?” Margaret asked, shifting her position. She felt really uncomfortable and wished that she could just get out of the car.
“Oh, it doesn’t do much for me anymore. When I was younger I liked it pretty well, but when I went to college I kinda stopped going. I didn’t see a need for it. Why waste a Sunday? God never seemed to care about what I did anyway. When I got home, though, my parents got really mad, so I told them that I would go, and here I am, checking off the Sunday fulfillment!” she replied frankly, wishing that Margaret would just let her be.
“Ida, Mass isn’t about you. It is about God! It’s a time to worship Him and give Him thanks,” Margaret said desperately, wishing she knew how to explain the beauty of the Mass to her confused friend.
Ida just shrugged. “Well, that great for you, but everything I’ve accomplished was because of my own hard work, not prayers. God should be satisfied that I even come,” she said, staring at the road in front of her. Margaret opened her mouth to say more, but before she could, Ida interjected. “Can we just drop this conversation, Margaret? I really don’t feel like talking about it anymore.” For the rest of the ride the two girls remained silent.
What could I have done better? Margaret thought madly as she started to mop the floor. Whenever she tried to be a good example to her friend, she always seemed to make things worse. She groaned as she thought of several other times where she had tried speaking up, and all of them resulted in an “agree to disagree” manner.
The girls didn’t get along very well after that. They hardly talked during work, and Ida was always “out.” Margaret wanted to make amends with her friend, but never could bring herself to. Pride always got the upper hand.
Months passed by. Margaret moved out of the Phasons’ house and into a very small apartment. Even with work, she was restless. One gloomy day she found herself idle since there were no customers.
Trying to find something to entertain herself with, she took out a book of saints’ quotes that a relative had given her. Skimming through the pages, she randomly stopped and read the quote. In flourished script, the quote said, “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” It was from St. Augustine. Sighing, she put down the book to help the customers who had just come through the bakery door.
The next morning she decided to try the advice of the great saint. Searching for peace, she went to Mass, and after everyone had left, she went to go visit Jesus in the Tabernacle. She made her way to the Tabernacle chapel and sat down on one of the wooden chairs.
She looked at the beautifully made Tabernacle and prayed, “Lord, what do you want of me? I am restless. I want to do your will. I am knocking, but will the door ever be opened to me?” She tried to pray, but her thoughts kept getting sidetracked. Frustrated, she started reading St. Therese’s Story of a Soul.
She had read this autobiography when she was only nine, and had read it so many times after, that she had finally gotten a new one, but never had the heart to throw away the old one. She was always inspired by the saint’s “little way.” “How beautiful it must be to be a nun,” she mused as she read through the crisp, new pages.
Then the thought suddenly came to her: was she being called to be a nun? She knew that she wasn’t called to marriage. God had made that very clear after a few unsuccessful courtships.
What about religious life, though? No, she immediately thought. But then she looked up at the Tabernacle and said, “Is that what you want of me? To be a nun?! Thy will be done, Lord. Thy will be done.”
Of course, she would still pray about it, but her heart felt lighter and the world seemed brighter. She smiled and knelt down to pray the Rosary. God’s timing was perfect. “I’ll be back,” she whispered to the Tabernacle before walking out into the August heat.
Ida was not happy when she came to do her shift in the bakery on December 19th. “James is such a jerk!” she hissed spitefully as she put on her apron. “It doesn’t matter. We’re through, anyway,” she told herself, fuming with anger.
There were no customers, and Margaret left the place so clean that Ida had nothing to do. She flipped open her phone and was about to call one of her friends, when she saw a missed call. Margaret… Ida sighed.
She and Margaret didn’t get together much anymore. Whenever they did, they always ended up in an argument about something moral or a debate about the Church. “She just doesn’t understand,” she told herself.
Margaret, of course, had tried to make amends once, and Ida had said that there was nothing to be sorry for and that everything was fine. She had lied. Margaret irked her conscience, and so Ida avoided her. She didn’t listen to the voicemail, and snapped out of her thoughts when the bells tied to the door chimed.
The next few hours were occupied with a steady stream of hungry customers. Soon, the rush died down. Her shift was ending soon, and she was wondering where Margaret could be.
The bells rang again. Ida put a fake smile on her face and went out to greet the customer. The smile vanished, though, when she saw a nun in full habit on the other side of the counter. She was around seventy, and her face shone with joy.
“Hello! Are you Margaret? I’m Sister Maria. How are you?”
The last time Ida had seen a nun was so long ago! Goodness! She blinked a couple of times. “Margaret? No, no, I’m Ida. Margaret was supposed to be here a while ago…I can call her if you want. Ummm…please sit down,” Ida stammered, trying to make sense of everything. Is she some relative of Margaret’s?
She called Margaret but there was no reply. She went to the nun and said, “Sorry, Sister, she didn’t pick up. I don’t know where she is at the moment. Sorry.” She put on a weak smile, expecting the nun to leave.
“Oh no, it’s okay child. I don’t mind waiting,” replied the sister with a smile, as she made herself comfortable on one of the bakery’s pink chairs.
“Oh,” Ida said, trying not to show her disappointment, “sure, make yourself comfortable.” Seeing that she had nothing to do, and there were no other customers to attend to, Ida started sweeping the crumb-less floor, hoping that the old nun would go away soon. Her hopes were in vain.
Sister Maria really didn’t seem to mind waiting. She busied herself by studying Ida’s every movement, which made the latter feel very nervous.
“How has your day been—Ida?” she said in a soft voice.
Ida looked up quickly. “Oh, it’s been okay, Sister,” she said.
Sister Maria nodded her head, smiling. “You own this shop?” She looked about the bakery.
“Oh, no. My mom’s friend owns it. I’m just an employee,” Ida replied, then kept on sweeping. Sister Maria didn’t know how to take a hint.
“Oh, I see. So, if you don’t mind me asking, is this the kind of job you have always wanted?” she said curiously, not in a judging or serious manner, but very innocently.
Ida’s hands tightened around the broom. “Well, I mean, I guess not. I never really thought about what I wanted to do—I mean, why rush?”
“Well, of course. I didn’t mean to make it seem like it was anything bad. God has a vocation for each of us, and they are all different.” She paused for a moment, studying Ida, before continuing, “Remember though, Ida,” she said, leaning slightly forward, “That we aren’t happy unless we follow His plan. I’m so glad you have.”
Feeling her face turn red, Ida started vigorously sweeping some imaginary spot on the floor. Who is she to tell me if I’m happy or not? How does she even know what happiness is? She’s a nun! She stopped her train of thought abruptly, saying, “Are you happy, sister, even though—you are—a nun?” she said hesitantly.
Sister Maria gave her a beautiful smile. “I’ve never been happier, child. God has fulfilled my heart’s wishes in ways I never thought possible when I was younger. Are you happy, Ida?”
Ida was stunned. Was she happy? She glanced at Sister Maria, and knew clearly in that moment, that, no, she was not happy like the sister was.
One glance at the nun proved to Ida that the nun spoke the truth: she had found the key to true happiness. Sister Maria’s eyes seemed to literally shine out of happiness and love which seemed so out of Ida’s grasp.
What is happiness? she wondered to herself, before saying hesitantly, “Y-yes, I am happy sister.”
Busying herself behind the counter, she still felt the nun’s gaze on her. Getting up and walking to the counter, Sister Maria held out her hand to Ida and gave her a firm handshake.
“Well, Ida, I am very happy for you. A great saint once said, ‘Our hearts are restless till they find rest in Him.’ God bless you, and please tell Margaret that I’m sorry we weren’t able to talk. Goodbye!”
As Ida saw the nun leave, her thoughts sarcastically wondered again, Happy? What does she know about that? Her thoughts didn’t get the better of her this time. She knew that Sister Maria, in her simple habit and owning nothing worldly, was happier than her. It was a very depressing thought for Ida.
All of a sudden, her head started aching, and she decided to close up the bakery and go home. Margaret can let herself in when she comes, she reasoned. Throughout the entire drive, the nun’s words kept repeating in her head over and over again.
When Margaret came out of the church and into the California winter sunshine, she felt as if she were walking on air. She had felt so much happier and peaceful ever since she had started going to daily Mass months ago. She flipped open her phone and saw a missed call from Ida. “What?” she said quietly.
Listening to the voicemail, she was dragged back down to reality. “Oh no! I forgot about talking with Sister Maria!” She ran to the parking lot, unlocked her small blue car and pulled out of the parking space.
Waiting at the intersection for the light to turn green, she kept praying out loud, “Jesus, please let her still be there, please!” When the light finally turned green, she pushed the gas pedal.
She was about halfway through the intersection when she saw a large truck rapidly coming from the right. He’s not stopping! she frantically thought, horror taking control of her entire being. Everything became black.
On an impulse, Ida decided to go home the way where she passed the church. She told herself that the way was shorter, and that she didn’t have to go to the church just because she was driving by it. It was traffic time, though, and Ida got caught in it. As she neared the turn to the church, she saw firefighters and police cars, and an ambulance near the corner.
“What on earth?” she murmured. She would have to make a detour, but something inside her made her slow down and look at the two cars. It was a truck and a smaller blue car. The car didn’t stand a chance. It was completely wrecked. Ida shuddered. How terrible!
As she followed the line of cars in front of her, something clicked. What was it? She looked back at the blue car, and fear took hold. Hurriedly changing her directions, she made her way to the hospital.
All through the drive, she held on to a thin strand of hope. “No, no, you can’t take her, God. You can’t! You just can’t,” she cried out loud, her knuckles turning white around the steering wheel. Did He even hear her prayers? Did God even care? She didn’t know, but she prayed anyway.
“You have to have faith in His plans,” Margaret had said once. “It’s always for the best.” At that time Ida had simply laughed, but now she actually thought about it.
“You wouldn’t let her die, would you?” Ida asked helplessly.
When she reached the hospital, Ida figured out that it was all too real. It was Margaret’s car, and she had been injured and was being looked after. Ida couldn’t go see her, said the nurse. Feeling faint, she made her way through a crowd of people and sat down on a chair.
Feeling a dull pain creep up her throat, she finally broke down and started crying. She didn’t care what people thought about her; she just had to let it out. She was too late. Too late to even say goodbye. Through her tears, she remembered the nun, saying, “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in Him.”
Crossing herself, she searched for the words. “God, I know I haven’t cared much about you for a long time, and I really don’t have any right to ask this, but…” she couldn’t go on. The words tugged heavily at her heart but couldn’t make it to her mouth. “God, help me,” she quietly sobbed.
Then, the words came to her. Softly, she said, “Our Father, who art in Heaven…” and this time she knew in her heart that He was truly listening.
For the first time in years, she felt that she wasn’t alone. God was real, and He cared. “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,” she prayed, but honestly hoped that His will would agree with her own.
During the hours of waiting, Ida hardly knew what was going on around her. All she knew was that her friend was dying, and she couldn’t see her. Ida just sat there in her misery. Her cell phone rang, but Ida didn’t feel in the mood to talk to anyone, and decided to let it go to voicemail. Voicemail!
She took her phone out of her pocket and went to her missed calls. It was still there! She put the phone to her ear to listen to it, and the message Margaret had left made Ida’s heart feel ready to burst. What a terrible friend Ida had been!
She remembered all their arguments; Ida’s every harsh word and cold shoulder came back to her. Margaret had never done anything half as bad, and yet here she was asking Ida for forgiveness for hurting her feelings. God, let her know that I’m sorry. I really do care. She prayed throughout the night, hoping for a miracle in the morning.
Margaret’s funeral was a sad one. Her family and relatives flew over to California, and Ida couldn’t bear to see Margaret’s mother crying at the loss of her oldest child. Margaret was laid to rest in a Catholic cemetery, under a willow tree.
Ida was relieved when the funeral was over, and went home to cry alone. In her sadness, she went to her letter box and read every single one of the letters Margaret had written her since the sixth grade. Why God? Why? Why?! she thought, crumpling up one of the letters in her hand out of remorse.
She cried after every sentence, and a few tears trickled down and wet the letters held in her trembling hands. She soon fell asleep due to exhaustion.
A month had passed since Margaret’s death. Ida had volunteered to go get all of Margaret’s belongings from her apartment. The apartment which Margaret had lived in for so little time seemed to be in mourning as well. The sunlight didn’t seem to add any brightness, and the entire room seemed gray.
When Ida was emptying out her friend’s desk, she found a few books in one of the many drawers. On the top of the stack was the autobiography Story of a Soul by St. Therese, the Little Flower. Ida picked it up and flipped through it.
The old book was barely holding on to its binding, proving that it had been read many times. A paper stuck out from the middle of the book. Curious, Ida took it out and read it. It was a letter that Margaret had written to a Mother Superior about joining the convent. “I feel that God is calling me to Him, and I am looking into several different orders…” This was a harsh blow for Ida.
After reading every bit of the sincere letter, she softly laid it back down and whispered, “Why did she have to die? She was so good and holy. You should’ve taken me instead, not Margaret. She passed from this world not knowing that I was sorry! God, forgive me!” Ida would have cried, but since Margaret’s passing her tears had run out. Instead, she picked up the letter and kissed it reverently before putting it back in the book. Will I ever forgive myself? she thought.
Sister Margaret set down her pen and quietly made her way to the sisters’ chapel. There, she knelt on the cold floor and prayed in the silence.
The Tabernacle candle’s light shone merrily, and the entire chapel seemed to wear a veil of peace. The Tabernacle stood majestically before her, and she soon became lost in meditation. It had been a long time since her dear friend, Margaret, had died.
The Ida of years ago was gone forever, and Sister Margaret remained. Tears formed in the nun’s beautiful green eyes, and she lovingly said to the Tabernacle through trembling lips, “God bless her!” and she truly meant it.
She knew that because of Margaret, she had come back to the Church and found peace with God. It was because of Margaret that she found her vocation.
“How long, my Lord? How long until I go to see Margaret?” she asked. She didn’t get a reply at that moment, but she knew that He heard her.
staThe early dawn’s rays burst through the stained glass windows and adorned her in an array of beauty.
The morning miracle she had prayed for years ago was fulfilled in a different manner.
“You have to have faith in His plans,” she heard the voice of Margaret clearly say to her so long ago.
She smiled. “Thank you, Margaret. I was restless, but now I rest in Him. I love you.”
Genuflecting, she made her way back to her little room.
Outside, the sun was rising victoriously above the mountains and the snow looked like shimmering crystals illuminated in its rays.
About Sophia Olomi
Sophia Olomi is a Seton sophomore who lives in sunny California. She is the middle child of three. She enjoys playing soccer with her friends and with her team, writing, singing, training in krav maga, hairstyling, or just having fun with her two lovable dogs. She doesn’t know exactly what God is calling her to do yet, but she is on the watch for it. Sophia is so grateful to God for her wonderful family and friends, and also to Seton Homeschool, and the fantastic education they provide.