Yes, Jesus loves me…

Photography © by Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles


A heavy marine layer fell like a pall over Long Beach, California, bringing colder, damper weather. I had set aside the day to visit my sister and together we were going to visit our mom’s grave in All Souls’ Cemetery, right there on Cherry Avenue, just north of Memorial Hospital. We opened the car doors and began walking slowly to the site. I had not returned since the death of my mom. My sister had come back many, many times. For a long time she had come by daily. This time we went together. The grey morning matched our spirits. We missed our mom.

The two of us walked around the perimeter of her section. We talked very little and we thought a lot. After a while, we ended up at her grave. We both said a prayer and laid some flowers down near her.

Just as we were beginning to leave, we heard some voices. Both of us turned around quickly to see what was happening.  We saw an interesting group of people, teenagers, walking to a new grave just up the hill from us. They were dressed in black, complete with piercings, belts that were chains, and a not-so-confident swagger to their walk.  They stopped at the new grave on the hill.

Not knowing exactly what to do, I turned to my sister and said, “Wait a minute. I’m going up there.” So, I hiked up my habit a couple of inches and began my morning march through the wet grass.  Before five minutes was up, I had reached them.  To this day, I’m not sure what urged me onward toward them, but I followed my interior nudging and, upon reaching the group, introduced myself and said, “Why are you here—all of you?  Have you lost someone?”

One of the girls ventured forward and held out her hand. “I went to Catholic school,” she said. “You are a Catholic sister.”  I nodded. “Our friend Dave is dead. He was in our gang and the other gang killed him. Both gangs were not allowed to come to the funeral together, nor to the cemetery.  We waited until everything was over, and decided to come by later to pay our respects.”

I had never heard of anyone being ousted from a funeral. How sad! What a statement of our culture, of our whole society. And at that moment I knew why I felt I should climb the little hill to meet this group of young teens.  I could pray with them if they wanted me to.  After so many years in religious life, and having participated in so many spiritual retreats and taught in so many classrooms, I knew good and well, that some kind of closure is needed at a time like this. So I stepped in with their permission, and we had a little closure ceremony.

We all formed one large circle. (There must have been thirty or forty gang members including their girl friends who had also shown up after the funeral). My heart embraced them all. I asked the name of the deceased.

His name was Dave, someone ventured.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Will everyone please form a circle here around his grave (we were a large enough group to be able to do that) and then let’s all of us hold hands. I couldn’t think of a common hymn we could all sing until the words of “Jesus loves me” came into my mind. So I began, “Jesus loves me this I know. ‘Cause the Bible tells me so.” They began singing one by one.  “Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong.” Their voices became stronger. “Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me; the Bible tells me so.” Tears began flowing freely down their young faces.

“Alright, everybody, just continue holding hands and think of one thing, one good thing, you remember about Dave.” We’ll go around the circle and not finish until everyone has said something. If someone remembers something else, they can add it in at the end.”

Then I watched as these supposedly tough gang members, obediently held hands and told their stories and memories of Dave. They laughed. They cried. They shared.

When it was all over, I began the Lord’s Prayer, and we all said it together.

As I prepared to leave, one of the young men asked me to bless the group. I was dumbfounded. I had never expected anything like that. I was thinking “closure” and the group was thinking “blessings.”

So that’s the background to the story of how one Carmelite Sister standing on a grassy knoll at All Souls’ Cemetery in Long Beach reached out to ask God’s blessings upon these beautiful children of His.  I put my hands on each head and one by one asked their guardian angel to protect them (I was thinking of all those gang wars we have here in the City of the Angels). They formed a line, and silently—oh so silently—you could have heard a pin drop—bowed their heads, one by one, in front of me. As I prayed, I spoke to each one about the beauty of heaven, and the unimaginable love of God, and His magnificent mercy. And I spoke of peace—peace in their hearts, their families, peace in our world.

I was humbled by their true and sincere piety. I was saddened by the circumstances of life which had drawn them into one of the gangs. I was amazed at myself standing in a cemetery on a bleak, wintry day amidst these gang members. After the last one stood in front of me and bowed his head, we all turned toward Dave’s grave one last time. Slowly, we wound our way back through the wet grass and down the hill.

I soon found myself at my sister’s side once again…

Our loving God can use anybody, anytime, to do anything He wants. And that day, for some reason, according to some divine plan, He used me.

“Wow!” my sister said.  That was enough. That was everything.


Editor’s note: Names have been changed to protect privacy.

This story and many others are found in the Carmelite Sisters’ short-story book called Moments of Grace.  If you wish to obtain a copy of the book, please visit:  

https://carmelitesistersocd.com/product/book-moments-of-grace/


To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.

We encourage you to support the work of the sisters with your prayers and through donations and planned giving. Click here to learn more..

If you hear God calling you to the religious life, I encourage you to visit their vocations contact page http://www.carmelitesistersocd.com/contact-vocations/. -Deacon Mike

Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Faustina, O.C.D., Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801


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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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