The Best Christmas Gift

A life-changing tapestry.
by James Cleary, LC | Source:
The bus bound for Staten Island pulled away just as a woman turned the corner of a street in Brooklyn, NY. It had been a long day of cleaning and the chill of the evening air bit sharply.

She sat down on an empty bench, shivering in the cold air. The next bus would not arrive for another 45 minutes. A young priest, walking to the church next door, glanced at the solitary figure and asked her if she would like to go into the heated church. The priest unlocked the door, and took a rolled-up cloth from under his arm. The woman sat down on a back pew while the priest propped a ladder against the wall and began draping the cloth where the brick was exposed. The gorgeous, cream-white cloth unraveled to reveal a handmade tapestry of exquisite design and colors, embroidered in gold with a golden cross at the center.

Tapping the priest on the shoulder, she asked in a shaking voice if she could see the inside of the border. Yes, there they were: her initials. “Father, where did you get that tapestry?” she asked.

He began to explain. He spoke excitedly of his new assignment to open the church by Christmas Eve. It had been a long endeavor because the building had been in disrepair. But during the last few months he had fixed the peeling walls and the damaged pews. The Church was ready, but the storm yesterday knocked a hole in the wall. Walking back from the church, wondering what he was to do, he had noticed this tapestry in the front window of a thrift shop. It was a perfect fit.

She then told how she had made that very tapestry 35 years ago in Austria before the war when she and her husband owned a large estate and he had been a cabinet member in the government. When the Nazis arrived they tried to escape to America. But the Nazis had captured her husband and she had never seen him again. At the end of her story, the priest offered her the cloth. She wouldn’t take it, but gladly accepted a ride home.

Leaving her at the apartment, the priest drove back amazed by her story.

An elderly Brooklyn resident went to the newly opened Church that Christmas Eve. The church was packed, the choir sang joyfully, and the organ resounded. One thing caught his eye, the golden tapestry behind the pulpit. During the whole Mass, he kept on gazing at that cloth.

After Mass, as the congregation slowly filed out, he kept staring at the tapestry. Memories flooded back of the war, his house, and his long-lost wife.

The church was empty. As he was walking out the door, the priest’s greeting broke into his thoughts. The priest thanked him for attending the opening Mass and invited him to come again. He mumbled a few words of assent, and continued walking. Having nearly reached the sidewalk, he turned and looked back at the priest. “Father, where did you get that tapestry?”

The woman had just returned from Midnight Mass at her home parish in Staten Island. She was hanging up her coat when she heard a soft rap on the door. She rarely had visitors, and never at this hour of the night. She opened the door slowly, and the priest whom she had met in Brooklyn was there to greet her.

“There’s someone here who has wanted to see you for a long time,” he said. The priest moved away from the door. Her husband, with the beautiful tapestry in hand, stepped forward and embraced her with tears of joy.

- Information taken from a personal testimony.

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