I used to think that being religious or having faith was more (or at least 'as much') a matter of understanding things, on an intellectual level, as it was about feeling or believing. It seemed like if I didn't understand it--if I couldn't describe it, couldn't anticipate it, couldn't make sense of it--then it wasn't real, wasn't legitimate.
I didn't get it.
I'm starting to see.
Last week, I was worrying. Worrying about my uncle, my dad's brother, who is gravely ill, and for my dad and the rest of my extended family involved in his life. Worrying for friends and troubles in their families. Worrying about a variety of things that I can't control. Worrying about my dear friend D. (for reasons that even he doesn't fully appreciate). I wasn't sleeping well, even beyond the lingering effects of my sinus infection. I was distracted, beyond the usual lately. I was grumpy.
And then, Friday morning, something remarkable happened.
On Friday mornings, I usually see my coworker. He is a remarkable person: very serene and seemingly on a level above and beyond, not "better" but just a dear, dear man. We had a nice talk, our normal work conversation, and then he said that he was hoping that he would see me because he had something that he needed to give to me. He had been given a gift by his friend, a Franciscan monk, Brother [X]. Brother [X] had given my friend a Miraculous Medal. My friend wears one already, which was given to him by his wife.
He knew as soon as he had this new one that he needed to give it to me.
As he placed it in my hand, I broke down in tears. He had no idea, of course, why I was crying. He just smiled and explained how he'd gotten the medal and why he was giving it to me--which was, in the end, just because of a feeling he had.
My friend, who gave me the medal? His name is D., just like my friend about whom I'd been so worried. As D. told me he had something for me, I felt...calmer. It wasn't more than 10 minutes later that I heard from that friend, relieving my worries.
And my uncle, the one who is so recently ill? His name is [X], too. My dad often calls him "brother [X]." When I heard my friend say those words, to hear his voice saying, "Brother [X]"...it was a true blessing. That is grace.
It doesn't change anything. I know that. Well, it doesn't alter the physical condition of my sick uncle, or affect those friends' circumstances (or my own, for that matter). It doesn't straighten out matters that are awkward between me and anyone else. But it certainly does change me--the way that I feel, the way I think, the way I approach things. That's the best I can do.
[the title quotation is by John O'Donohue, from Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, and reads in its entirety: “Grace is the permanent climate of divine kindness; the perennial infusion of springtime into the winter of bleakness.”]