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.
This month, our Into the Deep topic is “Gathering the Graces.” As I attempt to name the graces I have received and gathered since January, the last two lines of Ignatius’s Suscipe prayer (su’-she-pay) come to mind:
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.
I have to wonder – what is grace, and how do I know if I’ve received it? In his book Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions, Gerald May, M.D. says “Grace is the active expression of God’s love” (120). Dr. May’s definition helps me to identify the many graces in my life. Spending time in prayer allows me to see moments when God actively loved me, or to say it another way – gifted me with grace.
I felt God’s grace when a difficult relationship began to improve. I saw God’s grace when I sat in my backyard reveling in the beauty of nature all around me. I knew God’s grace on the day God said to me in prayer, “Be patient with yourself.” Too many times to count, I have been overcome by grace as I held or played with my sweet grandchildren.
In all those moments, I was receiving God’s love, in fact, I was receiving God’s graces. I didn’t do anything to earn those graces. I didn’t deserve those graces, but God gave them to me anyway. That begs the question, how do we pray for graces?
In Becky Eldredge’s book The Inner Chapel, she writes, “Name the grace you seek…After placing yourself in the presence of God, simply go to God with the question, ‘What is the grace I seek?’…Notice what arises in your mind and heart.’”
To expand on what might happen as you pray for a grace, let’s return to the graces that I recalled receiving earlier this year. I mentioned that a difficult relationship has begun to improve. That relationship has been on my mind during every prayer period (and even those times when I wasn’t praying) for many months. The change in the relationship has been gradual, but it is significantly better, less stressful, more loving. Those changes have given me hope and a fresh perspective. Definitely sounds like grace, doesn’t it?
Sitting on my deck noticing the beauty all around me has been a consolation in these months of sheltering-at-home. When I prayed for an end to the pandemic and a return to normalcy, God gave me the grace to rest in the beautiful confines of my own backyard.
Hearing God gently remind me to be patient with myself came unexpectedly when I was praying a novena for others and in the silence, between petitions, God graced me by noticing me! Reminding me that I too am loved.
Every day, all the time, I pray for the health, safety, faith, and well-being of my children and grandchildren. If I take time to notice, I see God’s grace in their smiles, frowns, hugs, temper-tantrums, laughter, and constant motion.
Reflect again on Becky’s advice to place ourselves in the presence of God and pay attention to what comes to our minds and hearts. This is the key to prayer. We are each unique and uniquely loved. God speaks to us in our “language.” For example, when God gently interrupted my intercessory prayers to tell me to be patient with myself, He was speaking to me personally about my tendency to be hard on myself.
The grace we receive is specific to our individual needs as well as to our specific gifts. Imagine the person with a gift to listen well so that others feel accepted and loved, but who is struggling with loneliness during this time of reduced social interaction. When she prays for the grace to feel less isolated, God might very simply remind her to use her gift to call someone who needs her listening ear.
We don’t have to wait for the BIG moments. Not at all! By paying attention, we will clearly see God’s grace in thousands of little ways.
How appropriate Ignatius’s words from the Suscipe are when we see God’s grace in our lives. We can sincerely pray, “God, give me your love and your grace. That is enough for me.”
Where have you seen God’s grace this year?
ONLY 3 DAYS LEFT TO REGISTER! Overwhelmed No More: A 6 Week Retreat in Daily Life
This unique online discernment retreat, based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, provides an individual retreat experience within a virtual community of faith.
We’ll begin this community journey on September 7th and finish on October 16th. The weekly content is self-paced, so you will be able to jump in easily after Labor Day if that works better for you! I hope you will join me!
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