This month’s blog series is “Gathering the Graces”. St. Ignatius invites us to ask God for a grace each time we pray. This month, blog contributors will share stories about the graces God has given them and where God is leading them.
Name the grace you seek.
Several years ago, before Becky and I really knew each other, I was a retreatant on a preached Ignatian retreat she was facilitating. As we gathered for our first talk, she invited us to close our eyes and said, “Now name the grace you seek.”
I immediately opened my eyes baffled and, in my head, said: Name the grace I seek? Isn’t grace a gift from God? How can I name my own gift from God? Why doesn’t anyone else seem confused? Why am I so confused? Do I not know what grace really means?
While I may not have been able to name the graces I sought on that retreat, God provided me with more than I could ever have the time to list! Clarity and understanding are two graces I can usually count on from any retreat I attend, even if it did take time to be able to name them as graces. God does not just give us graces during a retreat though, God gives us graces every day, we just have to take the time to be with God to notice them.
Over the last several months I’ve prayed a lot for the graces of patience and clarity. COVID-19 has turned our world upside down and all my perfectly laid out plans were thrown out of the window with the sheltering in place we’ve done over the last six months. While I love my family dearly, I’ve prayed for the grace of patience since we’ve spent so much time together. Simple tasks take much longer with interruptions to break up arguments, make snacks, and to take another bathroom break while potty training our toddler. I’ve prayed for the grace of clarity to help better understand what our next right step-big and small- is during a time of so much unknown. Is it safe to let the kids see our parents? Do we continue with distance learning or do we send the kids back to school? Is it okay to go out to eat inside a restaurant?
But just like on that retreat, the grace I’ve been given that took a long time to name is the grace of courage. At the end of my July spiritual direction session, my director asked me, “What grace are you going to pray for during the next month?” Without a second thought “courage” fell out of my mouth. My shock was not well hidden! I told my director I had never asked for the grace of courage. She said and I agreed it must be a sign from the Holy Spirit.
Looking back over the year, and stretching back to November, God has given me the grace of courage time and time again. When complications from a routine surgery left my Dad very sick, I had the courage to make difficult decisions about his care. God gave me courage to tell my brother on the phone as he was getting off the airplane that our Dad was dying. God has given me courage as I walk the long and uncertain road of grief.
God has given me courage to accept the uncertainties we are facing as a result of COVID-19. God has given me courage as I continue to ask myself hard questions about what I can do to help with the racial injustices our Black brothers and sisters are facing. God has also given me courage to write and share my thoughts with others on the Into the Deep and NOLA Catholic Parenting blogs.
When I think and pray about the graces I have received from God, I imagine myself alone in a forest carrying a giant brown basket. In my imagination, I am standing there simply in awe of the graces and gifts God has given me. Inside the basket are all the graces God has given me over the years. Even though the basket is big it is not heavy. There actually seems to be a lightness each time I add another grace. In prayer I smiled as I added the grace of courage to my basket. Like many other graces before, God had already given me the grace of courage, it just took time for me to name it.
What graces has God given you? What graces will you ask God for in prayer?
Seeking to increase courage in your life? Pray with this list of scriptures on courage.
Photo by Yasin Hosgor on unsplash.