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This Glimpse of Heaven Strengthened Her Faith

She had taken a vow of silence but then had a divine vision she would never forget.

A woman praying as a angel hovers behind her; Illustration by Amalia Restrepo

Our temporary chapel was nothing fancy, just a plain room with a makeshift altar and candles, but kneeling in it late that Friday night, I felt myself in a very holy place.

I was at my church’s annual women’s retreat. This year, for the first time, I’d been assigned to the prayer team. In some ways the job was perfect for me. I’d been praying my whole life. When I was a little girl getting ready for bed, my mother and I always said the same prayer together:

Angel of God, my guardian dear,

to whom God’s love commits

me here,

ever this day be at my side

to light and guard, to rule

and guide.


I spent so many evenings gazing out at the golden rays of the sunset reaching into the new azure evening sky, trying to imagine what that angel might look like.

I had no doubt that I could handle the praying, but there was another challenge to being part of the prayer group: no talking. The 10-woman team lived in total silence for two days, isolated from the other 30 retreat attendees in an area we called the desert, praying in two-hour shifts. I’m a talker. I always had wonderful discussions and conversations at the retreat. Going 48 hours without speaking at all would require some real willpower. I’d prayed for God’s help many times in the days leading up to the retreat. Now I just had to trust his support.

I was assigned the 10 P.M. to midnight shift on Friday night. My prayer companion was a woman named Susan, whom I didn’t know. I didn’t recall seeing her at the retreat previously and hadn’t had time to chat with her before our silence commenced. Maybe it’s her first year, I thought. What I really wanted to do was ask her, but I couldn’t speak.

Everyone at the retreat had been given a pad of paper to write prayers on. Over the next two hours, Susan and I read prayer requests submitted by other women and brought to us in the desert by the organizers. I would read a prayer and pass it silently to Susan. When we had both read the prayer, we put it in a basket with other prayers we’d read. Elsewhere, outside the desert, the organizers set up a fountain for people who weren’t comfortable having anyone read their prayers. They could write them down on dissolvable paper and drop them into the water themselves. Susan and I were praying for them too.

With no other channel of communication open to me, my prayers on this night went deeper than I had ever felt them go before. I wondered if Susan was experiencing that too.

Of course, I couldn’t ask, but I glanced over at her. She had her head bowed and appeared to be deep in prayer. She couldn’t see what I saw in that moment: Susan’s guardian angel kneeling beside her on the floor. The figure’s body was transparent, with an overpowering glow. She had large wings that appeared to engulf them both.

Gazing at them, I felt as if I was in a trance, floating on a cloud. Don’t blink, I told myself. It might go away! I lifted my eyes to the ceiling and saw more angels. Angels as far as the eye could see. My heart felt as if it would burst out of my chest with joy. A glimpse of heaven, I thought. For what else could it be? I want to stay here forever!

I blinked.

The euphoric feeling was over in a flash. I closed my eyes again, hoping that when I opened them, I would see them again. But no, I’d returned to the little makeshift chapel. I turned to Susan to tell her what I had seen, but couldn’t. What a time to have taken a vow of silence!

My hand went to my own pad of paper. It was supposed to be for prayers. Would a note to Susan be cheating? I decided that in this case, God would approve. “I saw your guardian angel kneeling beside you,” I wrote. “She seemed to be hugging you.” I passed the note to Susan and returned to my own place. God, I don’t know why you gave me that vision, but I’ll never forget it!

My vow of silence ended on Sunday morning. I chatted happily with other women at breakfast. I didn’t say anything about the angel. That seemed too important for chit chat over eggs and coffee. Susan didn’t say anything either. After eating, the prayer team gathered by a fire pit outside to burn all of the handwritten prayer requests from the weekend. “For our last morning,” the prayer leader said, “I’d like to go around the circle and have everyone share something special that happened to them during the weekend.”

Of course, I knew what my special moment would be when my turn came. I couldn’t wait to share it with the group! Susan was one of the first to speak. “To be honest, I was questioning myself and my faith a lot this weekend. But while I was praying in the chapel on Friday evening with Charlotte I was blessed,” she said. She described the note I’d given her. “I’d been asking God what I was doing here. Why was I on this retreat? And on the prayer team? And then this woman I didn’t even know made it clear that I was right where God wanted me to be.”

God had found a way to answer Susan’s prayer as well as to show me that sometimes silence had its own rewards.

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