Soon after Ophelia left her body, mid-May of 2019, the Ananda community gathered to celebrate her life and to affirm our eternal friendship in God — with Ophelia, and with one another.
A deeply devoted Mexican Catholic, Ophelia came often to Ananda to keep a watchful maternal eye on the two of her eleven children who were members of the community. At home in Sacramento she was mother not only to her own large family but to everyone she met — the children of neighbors; people in trouble, perhaps in the country illegally; everyone else fortunate enough to cross her path — and as the years passed, the children of these early ones, and their children. Through her modest home came a steady stream of her “children.” Often they would stop for hours just to be with Ophelia, to tell her their troubles and to speak together of God. And they would feel renewed hope, that they were not alone, that God loved them and forgave them. Those who came would go on their way cheered and laden with fruit from Ophelia’s trees and preserves from her kitchen. No one went away empty-hearted or empty-handed.
Listening to the stories told by those who knew her, a picture emerges of a soul without borders, without those defensive walls that keep so many locked in littleness, in narrow self-definition. Whenever she would meet someone, her eyes — wide open and clear — would look right through all barriers to the beautiful being hidden within, and would demand that it shine forth. Not in words, but by the simple intensity of her focus on each soul’s true nature. One Ananda member who had met Ophelia only once greeted her somewhat tentatively at their second meeting, for she assumed that Ophelia wouldn’t remember her from their brief earlier encounter. Ophelia brushed these doubts and hesitations aside: “Of course I remember you!” she burst out. “I pray for you every day!” And this after one meeting. How many thousands of souls must this great-hearted mother have taken under her wing and included in the endless stream of intercessory prayer that poured forth from her soul to her beloved Jesus and to the Holy Virgin, the Divine Mother of us all! Not only did Ophelia pray for everyone she met, she also drew each one into doing the same, entering an ongoing cycle of loving prayer, given and received, unending, expanding. “Pray for me!” she would call out — not “good-bye” but “pray for me!” Her farewells were loving demands that each one send the light of prayer into the world.
Just as Ophelia related without defensive barriers to everyone she met, so too did she relate to God and His saints — to Jesus and Mary especially, but to God’s own whatever their outer garb. In her room were many images of Jesus and Mary, but also a photograph of Yogananda. For she knew Yogananda, and honored him as a true man of God. He was her own, her intimate friend, and she called him “Yogi.” Between them was a steady flow of what Sri Yukteswar called the “heart’s natural love”—the one quality Divine Mother and Her saints can never resist.
It was during her recuperation from a severe ankle injury that Yogananda first came to her. Lying racked with pain in her daughters’ Ananda home, Ophelia called out to God for help — and God responded, in the form of Yogananda, there before her, lovingly placing a fold of his orange robe over her injured ankle. The pain vanished as though it had never been, and did not return.
Some time later, but still during the mid-1980s, on another visit to her two daughters, Ophelia was outside their home in a nearby meadow. Yogananda appeared to her inner vision, came to her, and lovingly embraced her. In her childlike, unaffected, fearless way, Ophelia walked with her friend “Yogi” around the village, showing him the sights, speaking of her family and her life. Their feet never touched the ground. “Do you come here often?” she asked. “I am always here,” Yogananda replied.
When her husband passed away, Ophelia had the Ananda minister of the Sacramento Center perform the Astral Ascension Ceremony for his soul. Her priest was present; her husband’s passing would later also be honored with traditional Catholic rites. The feeling during the Ananda ceremony was of harmony among faiths, of expansion, all-inclusiveness. Ophelia’s consciousness was simply larger than any formal affiliation. Though perfectly loyal to her Catholic faith, she saw no conflict with Ananda’s way — simply different expressions of love for God. And so Yogananda’s photograph held an honored place among her pantheon of Catholic saints.
In her own way, Ophelia in her life fulfilled the mission to the West set in motion at the meeting between Jesus Christ and Babaji: to send to the West a great soul to reawaken the great light of inner communion with the Lord, and through that reawakening to bring about harmony among all religious, all peoples on earth — that people everywhere realize in their inner awakening their common descent from the one Father-Mother, God.
Ophelia’s great soul reached out in blessing to everyone she met, and reached up to God in a constant conversation. Whatever confronted her, she would turn to God first, for guidance: “That way I don’t make mistakes.” Before she acted, she would make the sign of the cross, praying, “With God . . . For God . . . By the grace of God.” In her last days, her conversation became more intense, more focused. Again and again she would cry out, “God’s will. God’s will.” Or, “Santa Maria, Madre de Dios.” All the “baggage” (as she called it) of her life dissolved in the flood of her devotion. Like a feather floating in the gentle breeze of God’s grace, Ophelia’s only thought at the end was of her Divine Beloved.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
In divine friendship,
For Ananda’s “Thank You, God” Tithing