Loretta kept in regular touch with then-Monsignor Fulton Sheen, in whom she had utter confidence. Be it over the phone or in person, he seemed able to guide her in the right direction. Once she told him that she was never sure whether God really heard her prayers. "Well, then, ask Him for a sign," Monsignor suggested. "What kind of sign?"
"Something to let you know He's taking care of things. For example," Monsignor went on, "once when I was at Lourdes, I prayed for a favor I had not yet received. I actually started complaining to the Blessed Mother, saying that if she loved me as much as I loved her, she would intercede and ask God to grant the favor."
"And then?" Loretta was fascinated.
"And then I felt ashamed. I apologized, and asked, if she wasn't mad, would she send a sign: before I left the grotto gate, I wanted to meet a twelve-year-old girl dressed in white, who would stop and hand me a white rose." He looked at Loretta. "You have to be specific, you see---otherwise, you might just think it was coincidence."
"What happened?" she urged.
"Well, I was just going out through the grotto gate when I heard a child's voice call, 'Father'?' It was a girl dressed in white, who handed me a white rose. 'How old are you?' I asked her."
"'Twelve'," she said."
Loretta was shocked. "I couldn't do that," she told him. "I'd be too afraid that He wouldn't answer me."
But she continued to think about it. And she was still thinking on the Sunday of Judy's First Communion. She dropped her little daughter off at school to join her classmates for the procession, left friends talking outside, and slipped into a pew in the church's dark quiet interior. It wasn't as if she needed a huge favor. Yes, she was longing for a baby, had even had some minor surgeries to hopefully help her conceive, but God would surely answer at the proper time. Her quest was larger, yet nameless. She just wanted to know that He was there with her, loving her, pleased with her… "I'm not going to ask for a sign," she told God, "but if I did, I'd ask that the candle on the altar's left side wouldn't burn. But You understand, I'm not really asking."
People were starting to enter the church. A little nun came out, carrying a candle lighter. She lit both candles on the altar, and turned to go back down the stairs. Just then, the candle on the left side of the altar went out.
Loretta stared. Just a coincidence. Someone pointed the candle out to the nun, and she went back, climbed the altar stairs and re-lit it. Turning, she started away as the organ began the processional hymn. The left candle went out again.
Now Loretta had goosebumps. Quickly the nun lit the candle for the third time. The children were moving solemnly down the aisle, and the priest had come onto the altar. Once again, the flame flickered and died.
It was too late to try again. Judy would make her First Holy Communion with only one candle burning on the altar. And Loretta would understand, just a little, what "faith the size of a mustard seed" could do.
THE GRAVE OF LORETTA YOUNG
at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California
(Always close to her mother in life, actress Lorretta Young asked that at death
her ashes placed in the grave of her mother, Gladys Belzer Young.)
Just above the grotto, is a full-size replica of Michelangelo's "Pieta" statue
(which depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the crucified Jesus in her arms).
A major star in her day, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1947 for her role in "The Farmers Daughter." She was nominated again in 1949 for her role as a nun in "Come to the Stable." She starred opposite superstars such as Clark Gable, James Cagney, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Tyrone Power, David Niven, Robert Mitchum, William Holden and Joseph Cotten in films such as
"The Bishop's Wife" and "Mother is a Freshman.
She worked tirelessly for Catholic charities, including a home for unwed mothers and a children's foundation. On movie sets, she insisted on propriety and even forced studio workers to contribute a coin to a kitty every time they swore.