The Fourth Week begins with the Resurrection. The grace of the Fourth Week is to feel joy with Christ in joy. This gives me access to an experience of redemption, suggesting that, even in the midst of chaos, a small seed of hope can take root and grow. Redeeming grace can bring good out of the worst, the bleakest of situations.
Margaret Blackie, Rooted in love: Integrating Ignatian spirituality into daily life (Kindle Location 261-263)
… the grace of the First Week of Spiritual Exercises is to know myself to be a loved sinner, that is to say, a moment of clarity when I have seen my sin and my brokenness – and I have felt totally loved by God. I have encountered that grace several times in my life. It is utterly disarming. In those moments I understand the power of redemption. God does not need me to be good or to be perfect, God just needs me to allow God to love me. In those moments, and in the aftermath, I find that I am far more grateful and far more generous. I am far more able to forgive the failings of those around me, and I am far more compassionate to those who are broken.
(Kindle Location 813-818)
Redemption… Quite a word… I have never spent time on it until I came across it in Mags Blackie’s wonderful book, Rooted in Love. She mentions this word eleven times, and always with the same effect — “redeeming grace can bring good out of the worst, the bleakest of situations.”
The joy experienced was a major clue for me. I have known joy and a joy which did not come from me. A joy which came from Godde, something which I never doubted. Until I read Mags’ book, I called those experiences ‘feeling hugged by Godde.’
Let me give you an example. This is more than thirty years ago: I am 35 years old, an accompanying spouse (I go with my husband wherever the UN sends him), and a mother of two daughters. Both my father-in-law and my younger daughter would like me to have another child, a son preferably, or a baby brother, depending on who speaks.
We are on home leave in the States, spending two months in the old family home around Christmas time. I discover that I am pregnant. Oh, the excitement! I am so ready for a new baby… I have gone already once to the hospital for a sonogram and I saw that little tear-shaped pocket gently nestled in the black moving entity which is my uterus. But during these two months, my body gives me signs that something has happened.
I go back for another sonogram, by myself. I have driven the old blue Dodge Dart there. I left it in the huge parking down below. I lay down on the hospital table and watch the screen while the nurse is looking for the sign of life hidden in the depths of my body. She and I have to face the truth: my uterus is now empty. The tiny seed of life is gone.
I am holding back my tears. I feel like a failure because I’m going to let down both my father-in-law and my daughter. I was so ready to carry this baby and bring it in our family… The nurse noticed my emotions and kindly hands me a whole box of Kleenex that I can take with me. I thank her and leave.
On my way to the parking, I find a phone booth and call the house to give the news. I also add that I will be driving downtown to buy the girls a swimsuit. A delaying tactic, I guess.
I tell myself that I will not cry until I reach the car. I clutch the box of Kleenex and reach the car. I sit behind the wheel and start crying. Then, thinking of the movie ‘Oh, God’ and the actor George Burns playing God, I turn to the passenger seat and say to my invisible Godde next to me, “You know, Godde, this really hurts. But I love You anyway.”
I had not finished that thought that I felt literally bursting out of my heart the most incredible joy which seemed to go straight through the top of my head and the roof of the car. I felt simultaneously the greatest desolation and feeling of failure and the greatest joy I had ever experienced, as if Godde was telling me in the process, “You’ve got it, kid!” I had understood that Godde was for nothing in the miscarriage, and my love for Godde in spite of my heartbreak made all the difference at that time.
Margaret Blackie, thus, helped me understand that I had had a moment of redemption, this incredible connection with Godde which counterbalances an acute sadness.
As I look back on that moment, it is only now that I realize that I was not at all a good Catholic in those days (Well, I am not really one now either… But maybe my definition of a ‘good Catholic’ is unrealistic). I probably went to mass on Sundays, but I never thought of praying the daily readings or spending much time on prayer. If I did pray, I cannot remember. Nevertheless, there was already a lot of love for Godde in my heart; I had forgotten that part.
Since then, I can remember two such other moments. Each time, they came out of a reaction of great honesty, an acceptance of who I truly was, i.e. majorly flawed with little hope of ever getting much better, or again, from expressing gratitude to Godde for her giving much more than what I had asked for.
To conclude, I must also say that I cannot make those moments of redemption happen. They always take me by surprise, in a spontaneous flash of vulnerability and openness — and a movement of love.
I thought I would share this here because you may have experienced something like this in your own life and, like me, not have had a word for it. Mags Blackie has given us this word, ‘redemption.’
I pray that you may remember such moments in your life or recognize them when they happen to you.
Note: Some great reviews of Mags’ book have been posted. Here they are —
There Will Be Bread, by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn,