Friday, February 09, 2018

Quiet Grace

The other night, I unexpectedly had to drive my eldest daughter to her ballet class. I rarely do this as I'm usually working in the evenings and this is something that her mother is much more engaged in. But I always relish the chance of spending more time with my eldest and so set my evening plans aside to drive her to her class.

Her class was a few towns over, across about fifteen miles of open country. She has the last class of the evening, so it was already quite dark when I dropped her off at 8:30 PM. What would I do with myself for that free hour? Lately I have taken to jogging whenever I have free time, which is great for clearing my mind on top of the obvious health benefits.

Though it was only about 8 degrees, I started jogging around the town. It's a very small town; those who are from the Midwest will recognize it's type intuitively in my description. An old, Victorian era settlement with all it's historic buildings clustered along one main strip. Tall, two and three story stately brick structures with their Italianate facades, ornate cornices, and oversized rounded-arched windows, all running together. The side streets filled with imposing, Victorian homes of equal splendor, but still quaint in their own small-town USA sorta way.

I started jogging down the main strip, my breath a vaporous fog in front of my face as I moved. I passed by the dark windows of boutiques and resale shops, offices of lawyers and insurance agents, and flower shops - by now all closed. The town was still and quiet. I have always found a certain kind of loveliness in the stillness of a cold, winter night, a beauty that even the ridiculously frigid temperatures of a February winter night in Michigan cannot efface. The snow, the ice, the cold...there has always been a sort of purity about it for me.

I passed under the eerie flash of the town's solitary blinking yellow traffic light. Presently I passed out of the main section of town and saw ahead the looming spire of a church. Upon getting closer, I saw it was an incredible old neo-Gothic structure made entirely out of fieldstone. In the old days it used to be a custom that when a rural congregation was ready to construct it's permanent church, farmers would all contribute stones from their fields to the building of the church. The resulting structure would be neo-Gothic stylistically but constructed entirely out of raw, rounded fieldstone instead of brick. This is somewhat common in rural communities around the Midwest; I assume there are similar traditions elsewhere.

I was pleased to see it was a Catholic church, and even more pleased when I spied warm, yellow light glowing inside the windows. Could they possibly be open, I wondered? In this desolate, cold little village could the Catholic church alone have its doors unlocked at this time of night? I jogged over to the parish steps, huffing, and walked up. Sure enough, not only was the church unlocked, but they were having Eucharistic Adoration. Two older gentlemen were reading and praying quietly. Of course! It's a First Friday, I said to myself.

I was pleasantly surprised with the interior of the church (the pic atop this post). Sure, it had a table altar and the original high altar had been removed. But at least the tabernacle was in its rightful place. Sure, some of it had been modernized.  But by and large it was very aesthetically pleasing. And when the Lord is on the altar, everything is more beautiful.

As I walked in and crossed myself, I noticed the confessional light was on and door ajar. Could I be so fortunate? Yes, indeed! A priest was waiting in the confessional...and there was no line! I had not planned on making a confession this night, but I wasn't about to pass this up. I ducked right in there and did the best I could to make a spontaneous confession. I could tell from his voice that the priest was African. Considered naturally, how very out of place, an African priest in a town like this! But in the order of grace, it was just as it should be. I made a decent confession, received some very consoling words from the warm, slow voice on the other side of the screen, and walked out with my soul lighter.

I knelt in the pew and spent some time adoring the Lord and thanking Him for this unexpected, quiet moment of grace He had made for me here, in this unexpected place. But that's all how the beautiful things in life are. It is easy to point out the ugly, the wicked, the cold, the disappointing...these things manifest themselves easily to us and require no labor to search out. But the beautiful, the good, the unexpected little quiet moments of grace...these things are found only by the diligent who search for them, who are willing to labor on their behalf. The beautiful things in life do not yield themselves up easily, but when they do, they compensate for the ugliness fourfold.

After sometime I meandered back down the main street to my daughter's ballet studio. I was able to spend some time warming up before she came out. She's old enough now that I was able to slump into the passenger seat of my truck and let her drive me home - deo gratias!

Yes, the quiet simple moments of grace are always there. They might not always be a little Catholic parish with the Blessed Sacrament exposed and an open confessional, but grace is always there for those who are disposed to see it. Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear.



Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. Very comforting. You have described a beautiful 'rightness' that we are sometimes allowed to experience by the grace of God.

Barbara Jensen said...

A beautiful post. I felt as if I were there with you, and I understand these moments of grace so well. Do they not comprise most of our encounters with the Eucharistic Jesus? Thank you for sharing this humble and silent encounter with the living God Whom we can find in experiences such as yours..