By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Consuelo - Angel of the Night
Placeholder Image
Thursday night, late, the back doorbell rang.  With a cold chilling rain, I hadn’t expected any visitors.  But there she was, my angel of the night.

 Granted, we have a lot of street angels here.  Perched as we are on the thin frontier between downtown Stockton and the poorer southern district, this church of St. Mary’s draws a wide variety of homeless, or at least uprooted, people.  Among them are many of the “anawim” - that is, the poor, down-trodden, disenfranchised children of God wandering in need of deliverance.

And of these angels, one most remarkable character is little “Consuelo”.

In Spanish, her name means “Consolation”.  And that’s what she needed.

“Padre”, she cried, “I feel so lonely.  My birthday is coming Wednesday, and I have no one to celebrate it with me.” Her Spanish was perfect, though the accent testified to her upbringing in the USA.  As always, she’d shift back and forth between languages, as if to make sure we would understand.

“I just come by to ask for a few centavos and then go on my way”, she continued.   “But I like being here.  I sit in the church and it feels so much bigger than me.  And people here treat me so well.  They have been so good to me.   But the police just left me a notice.  They told me they’re going to make me leave from my place.  The day I have to leave is my birthday!”

 She started to wail again.  There, deep inside so many layers of clothing, under a thick knit cap, her light skin reflecting the back porch light, this poor lady of fifty was facing, once again, being dislodged and relocated.

I’d first met her two months ago.  It was another late night.  Closing up our gates around ten or so, I found a bundle of dark clothing behind an over-loaded grocery cart.  As I drew near, I was shocked to discover a tiny lady, her face covered by a dried pool of dark blood.  “Oh, I’ll be OK,” she had assured me.  “Just let me park my things here and sit down for a while.”

Bringing her some coffee and bread, I went about closing up the property, while she pulled herself together.  “He was supposed to pay up,” Consuelo reported, “but instead he clubbed me over the head with a bat.”  Still, the poor battered woman refused medical help:  “It’ll just cause more trouble.”

 She pushed her cart off into the shadows. but in five minutes she was back.

 “Padre, my head is hurting.  I’m getting too dizzy to walk.”  Fearing internal bleeding or a deep lesion in her brain, I called immediately for the medics.
 They treated her like a princess.  “Could you please keep my cart for me?” she asked, waving from the gurney as they loaded her into the ambulance.

 That cart of hers stayed two months in our garage.  Proudly maintaining its place with our vehicles and stored belongings, it bragged of its manager’s rights to a home in our parish.  But little Consuelo disappeared completely.

 So I was delighted to see her again, alive and well, last Thursday night.
 She held a letter scribbled in large red letters on the back of a McDonald’s bag.  Written in Spanish, the language she kept speaking, it translates thus:

“Look: I am Consuelo, the white woman (“gabacha”) who’s always in the parking lot of the church, trying to wash windows or do some work.  On March 17th, my birthday is coming, but I feel really lonely, thirteen years  without my family.  Please pray that I find my family members!  I love you all very much, and Fr. Dean, and Martin the security guard.  Thank you all for your help.  I love you all with all my soul.  Always yours, Consuelo.”

 Yes: on Wednesday, March 17th, she’ll be celebrating 51 years of life in this world, but will also be on the street once more looking for a safe place to park her cart and lay down her head.  I’ve got until then to figure out a way to make her birthday more special, if we can get her to come around.

 Her story needs to be shared.  We may have dozens of very special street angels in our neighborhood, but we have only one Consuelo.  She is that lonely woman who still prefers to speak Spanish with her incredibly flat American accent.  She is that lonely lady who makes friends with everyone.

 She is that stranger to all, who lives among us but has here no lasting home.

 She is always in danger, exposed to the elements, and looking for mercy.

 And it doesn’t take long to realize that she is the wandering, homeless, and afflicted Christ, whose Passion continues playing itself out down through history until that great day when all our tears will be dried and the blood will be washed off our faces.  And whatever we do to her, we do it to Him.

 Consuelo, you came looking for consolation, but you warmed up my heart.