This week I had one of those marvelous occasions when prayer arrived for me.
This has been a terribly busy time. You know the feeling. Your gut suddenly clinches up with a frantic thought: Can I get all this done?
It was one of those moments when you feel the tightening muscles in the abdomen, the feeling of being overwhelmed. I regret to say that in those instances, I’m not always the best at giving time to prayer. And those times, of course, are when I need prayer most.
Breathe, close your eyes, let your mind empty, place your trust in the other, experience presence.
I wasn’t doing very well at any of that. I was constantly putting off my prayer time until later. I sat at the dining room table, laptop before me, nervously trudging along at my “to do” list as if it were of great importance.
Suddenly, I glanced out at the neighbor’s house across the way and noted a very bright light, a gleaming orb, in their bedroom window. I did a double take and realized it must be a reflection of a full moon, a really big full moon.
I hurried out the patio door and around the side of the house. I was having trouble spotting it, until there, far above me, in the light blue sky of early evening, was the moon. Its valleys and craters, the “man in the moon” were clearly demarcated. It was too early for stars. It was simply a spring moon on a cool evening, shining on a city about to bloom into summer.
I was brought to my knees. Well, not literally, not in the thick damp grass. But my mind suddenly emptied of all those “important” things. I felt awe, and then I thought of one thing only. A few days before I had found out that I am going to be a grandmother (for the first time) in November.
In the busyness of my week, I hadn’t taken much time to reflect on this momentous occasion, but as my eyes were lifted to the heavens, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. I felt a sense of presence, not just the presence of the eternal holy One, but the presence of a new family member.
Around me, I sensed the “thin places” that Irish writer John O’Donohue describes, when a veil seems to lift between you and those who await you in eternity.
In the early evening, I felt tears sting my eyes. I thought of the book “Famine” by Liam O’Flaherty, which I had just finished rereading. “Famine” is a classic of Irish literature, the recounting of three generations of a family who endured the Great Irish Famine of the mid-19th century.
“Famine” is a riveting and painful read, especially for me because my great-grandfather was a child of the famine who escaped to America after his parents died. Much like the Kilmartins in O’Flaherty’s book, my great-grandfather discovered that survival was for the young.
If he had not made that desperate voyage on a famine ship, this little grandchild — his great-great-great grandchild — would not be.
For a few graced moments, that full moon brought me such a sense of continuity, of hope against the frightful perils of this world, of assurance that a mysterious presence guides us through troubled times.
If our faith is how we walk with mystery, I was grateful that on this spring night, mystery had knocked on my door and walked with me.