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.
I knew the drawstring pulls on my window blinds were wearing thin. One string was dangling loose, and the other strand was precariously twisted around the first. One night I came home late in the evening, and without thinking I pulled on the cord to lower the blinds. Much to my surprise, the entire window covering came crashing to the floor! It was well past dark, and looking out to the city street, I was suddenly aware that the entire neighborhood could now see through my front window. My cluttered coffee table, the half-folded load of laundry on the couch, my beloved pottery collection – all there for the world to see.
The pandemic has not been easy for any of us. It certainly has been more challenging for some people than others! Taking the blinders off, or perhaps watching them come crashing down to the floor, seems like a fitting image. What truly exists on the inside is shining forth for all to see, whether our hearts are filled with faith and trust, or a bit of impatience and frustration. In the darkness of fear and uncertainty, what is on the inside becomes highly visible to everyone on the outside.
Here is what I’ve noticed gleaming from the insides of others:
- I see generosity. A friend of mine is a technology recruiter who has an eye for effective resumes and an ear for strong interviews. He offered free coaching sessions for anyone who had lost their job. Another friend, an actor in New York, regularly posts this message on social media, “I know some of you are making tough choices about which bills to pay. If you’re barely getting by, send me your Venmo, no questions asked.” When I see generosity, I pray, “God give me the grace to be generous with my gifts.”
- I see creativity. A vibrant local parish is known for its radical hospitality, inspiring liturgy, and outreach to the community. What they have brought to life is truly inspirational! Community members are inviting friends over as they live stream Mass on big screen TVs in their backyards, while small group ministries are taking place via Zoom. I see parishes hosting online retreats, virtual choir concerts, and more! When I see creativity, I pray, “God give me the grace to imagine new ways of engaging in ministry.”
- I see community. With no place to go, people are free to build community right where they are. On my evening walks, I see neighbors gathered on their porches and picnic blankets spread out on front lawns. A local cellist has been offering free concerts in the park, and elsewhere I stumble across a spontaneous frisbee toss. All these activities strive to obey appropriate physical distancing, while meeting that deep desire for connection that we all crave. When I see community, I pray, “God give me the grace to be welcoming to others.”
- I see compassion. I am lucky to work for an amazing family-friendly Catholic organization. Never have our values been tested further than when we are ALL working from home, especially working parents who are also overseeing remote schooling. I see colleagues regularly checking in with one another, adapting to flexible schedules, and we laugh when children and pets become a welcome distraction to online meetings. When I see compassion, I pray, “God give me the grace to understand another’s pain and struggle.”
I am grateful to catch a glimpse of God’s mercy through friends and neighbors who have exhibited incredible generosity and compassion. At the same time, none of us can be blind to the many social inequities and injustices that have come to light during this time. There are countless stories I wish I didn’t have to see, but I ask God for the grace to allow me to see these things, too.
- I see hunger. It might surprise you to learn that when schools are closed children go hungry! Thousands of kids who receive free or reduced lunch, are not only missing out on the educational benefits of being in school, but they are at risk of losing out on a healthy meal in the middle of the day. Kids learn better when their stomachs are full. The COVID pandemic has released a wave of hunger, and its ripple effects extend far beyond the borders of our own country. When I see hunger, I pray, “God give me the courage to advocate for families who are most at risk of going hungry.”
- I see injustice. I wish I could un-see incidents of police brutality and racial inequities. I am learning more about systemic racism through the eyes of Black writers and authors. I recognize my lack of awareness of racial injustice, and I try not to let the sting of shame dampen my desire to do better and engage in difficult conversation. As I listen to the experiences of my Black colleagues, I’m able to name things I was taught as a child which I now know were ill-informed or wrong. When I see injustice, I pray, “God, give me to grace to sit with my own discomfort, and show me what actions I am called to take.”
The graces of these past months bring joy and evoke challenge. I ask myself, “Who do I want to be on the inside? How do I want my faith to shine forth?” In Psalm 139 the psalmist proclaims, “Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.” God sees it all as grace! God is always creating. God is always extending mercy. God is always renewing and restoring God’s people.
After the pandemic hit, it took a few weeks for my eyes to adjust to seeing my way through the dark. I am grateful for what God’s grace has revealed, and I am more attune to the challenges that we all face.
What graces, what goodness, and what challenges has God brought to light for you during this time?
- St. Ignatius teaches us that love ought to show itself in deeds over words, and that love is communicated by sharing our gifts, holding nothing back. Read more here.
- Do you need an evening of hope? A reminder that you CAN anchor your life in God’s firm foundation and INCREASE YOUR HOPE, even in the midst of steady, shifting winds? Join me for Living Anchored in Shifting Winds: A Live Virtual Evening of Reflection with Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat Center, Tuesday, September 29, 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm (Central Time).
Photo by Tumisu on Pixabay.