Remembering One of Our Own Catholic Correspondents
Sharing a reflection with our readers as a tribute to Louise
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
February 17, 2022
Louise Brass was one of The Observer’s cherished contributing correspondents since 2015. She died at age 71 in Rochelle Community Hospital Feb. 23, 2021. 
She won numerous awards for her work, most notably for her features on art in diocesan churches. She earned her last journalism award after her death from the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association of which she was a longtime member. 
Louise Brass
She was born May 21, 1949, in Southampton, England, the daughter of Charles and Helen (Davis) Knight. 
She was employed as a journalist writing for The Observer. She was a longtime member of St. Edward Parish in Rockford. 
She was a member of Scottish Country Dancing Club, Daughters of the British Empire, Northern Illinois Newspaper Association and Northwest Quarterly and Catholic Press Association.
She loved The Beatles, writing, painting, dancing, and nature. 
Survivors include her daughter, Michelle (Kyle) Brass; son, Anthony Brass; lifelong friend, Sheila; many family and loved ones. Her funeral Mass was celebrated March 5, 2021, at St. Edward Catholic Church.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of her death, The Observer is publishing a reflection written by Louise and submitted by her son Anthony Brass who enjoyed and assisted in his mother’s passion 
for Catholic writing. 
At the private visitation one year ago, Anthony said of his mother, “I have always been honored and privileged to read and edit all her colorful news articles, features, short stories, manuscripts for books, and creative writing. The way my mum brought the characters, persons, places and events to life with vibrant colors is something I will always cherish. I love you Mum … God bless your soul.” 
We share this reflection with our readers as a tribute to Louise during Catholic Press Month for the contributions she made to the Diocese of Rockford through the pages of The Observer.
-Penny Wiegert, editor
A Christmas Angel Encounter, By Louise Brass
At Christmastime there is something in the air that seems different to me —something ethereal. 
One Christmas season that something took shape.
I was rushing from my day job to my second job one evening hoping not to be late, and praying not to get into an accident, or get waylaid by a sudden snow squall. 
I was trying so very hard not to be late that it was difficult to pay attention to a silent voice that suddenly came from somewhere above my right shoulder and seemed to say urgently, “You could fall.”
Yes, I knew without a doubt that I could fall on the wet pavements of one of Chicago’s busiest downtown streets, even though I had quickly changed from high heels into running shoes before leaving my car.
Chicago at Christmas time, with shoppers rushing, traffic honking, and the Loop rattling its railway carriages overhead was a very noisy place. But the warning voice was clear to me, unmuted by the noise and bustle around me.
Knowing you are late and must run from the parking lot, along the several blocks to your other office job is a risk a lot of people take — especially at this time of year — even knowing that you might trip up and fall onto the hard concrete.
Several blocks of crowded wet sidewalks shimmering in the dim light of dusk and made kaleidoscopic by colored Christmas lights are not fun to navigate when all the shoppers are in a hurry as well. 
Being a single mother, my mind was usually going at 100 miles a minute whenever I was not at my work computer. Eating is not always on the list of urgent “to-dos.”
I had just barely succeeded in finding a parking place in a crowded lot, but could not stop to take a dinner break. “A sandwich and a piece of fruit that I had packed earlier will do, once I get there,” I told myself. 
Only two weeks were left until Christmas and very little shopping time available in my schedule. Did I have all the gifts I’d planned for the children?
Did I have enough Christmas cards for all the people I wanted so much to remember at this season of the year? 
Did I put the utility bill in the mail in time to avoid a late fee which would paralyze my budget?
Or worse, would we lose electricity? That would be bad, just when we really needed all those feel-good Christmas favorite TV shows, cartoons for the kids urging them into the excitement of the season, the concerts featuring favorite music and Christmas carols reminiscent of some long-ago Yuletides you never want to forget. 
But the silent warning words that I could fall were very clear to me. So I slowed to a more reasonable trot. Five blocks were already covered and four more to go.
I didn’t really mind my thrice-weekly run to my part-time job. It was exercise, after all.
 As I hurried, I usually tried to drop a few coins in the palms of the beggars along State Street or into the upturned hats of the musicians: violinists, trombonists — sometimes even drummers.
 I heard in the office that some of the beggars actually made a good living at it. But I was sure that many didn’t make much, and some really looked very poor with their scruffy, dirty clothing, thin coats not good enough to protect them from of a sharp blast of Chicago’s winter wind. Since you couldn’t tell the difference between who was legitimate and who was not, it was better to err on the side of helping at least one person who maybe didn’t really need your money than to ignore a beggar who might not have anything to eat this night.
That’s how our pastor always explained our responsibility to the needs of the poor — or the apparently poor. It made sense to me, even if a few cents were all I could afford. 
I clutched some coins in my right hand, ready to give as I ran. But mostly I looked straight ahead and kept going. 
Then a bus screeched to a stop beside me, and I moved to get out of the way of the alighting passengers. Sensing a street beggar nearby I reached out my hand to give away my coins, but suddenly I felt my right foot slide out from under me and I began to fall toward the beggar.
I felt his strong arm support me and prevent me from hitting the pavement. But as I crashed into him, all his donated money fell to the ground and scattered everywhere.
“Oh I am so sorry,” I said. But as I looked up at him I was startled. 
He had a look like I had never seen before, at least not on a human. His face was like a creation of Michelangelo’s. He had a luminous glow that was accentuated by reddish-gold curly hair framing his face.
I had seen a similar look on a cherub face in paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago. He could have stepped out of such a painting.
His soft green overcoat was not torn or dirty or tattered like the other street beggars wore.
“Don’t worry,” he said as he started to pick up the bright new pennies that now decorated the sidewalk.
He was only about 25, not the usual age for such activities. In fact, he didn’t look like a beggar at all. He looked like a well-to-do college student.
The only thing I could think to say was, “Is this a joke — a student’s joke?”
I couldn’t believe he was poor. 
Then it struck me — he must be my guardian angel. I began to believe he was the owner of the silent voice that had warned me a few blocks ago that I could fall.
He straightened up and looked at me with bright hazel eyes yet without expression and simply said: “I lost my apartment.”
“I’m so sorry. Let me help you,” I said, reaching down to pick up the coins. If he was an angel he must have had a great apartment. And his spotlessly clean and shiny money must have been pennies from Heaven. As I gazed around at them I saw they were all bright new coins.
“It’s all right, you go on,” he said. 
So I hurried away into the rush of Christmas. 
But I could not forget the angel face I saw that night. 
And, if he is indeed my guardian angel, then he is never far away, even now. Unless, of course, his good deed in saving me from crashing to the ground won him back the apartment he had lost.


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