No one believes me when I say that it took me nearly a year to learn the words of the customary Catholic grace, but it did. The one I had used for so many years as an Episcopalian was so deeply ingrained and just similar enough that I stumbled whenever I was required to pray this new Catholic grace aloud. It seems odd to me now, for try as I might, now I cannot even bring to mind the words I used to pray. It’s not a matter of concern, of course, just a measure of how things can change almost without my realizing it.
These last few weeks, and especially these last few days, I’ve found myself focusing on these Thy gifts.
Those gifts I ask to be blessed are so much more than the food before me. They always have been, but lately, thanks to the wise counsel of friend, I am realizing how much more. Other words of my Anglican past do surface: All things come of Thee, O Lord and of Thine own have we given Thee. These days that is more than head knowledge to me. More the walking-around kind of knowledge.
I can’t say grace these days without thinking of the time, shortly after I found out about my husband’s tumor, that I sat crying in the office of a priest friend, frightened beyond endurance at the possibilities it presented. That’s the down side of being a pathologist; blissful ignorance is simply not possible even when the best and most informed guess is very optimistic. After all, even if the overall odds are excellent, they are just odds. No matter what the odds are, whatever this turns out to be has a 100% chance of occurring. And of course, everyone in medicine knows doctors have the worst luck, medically speaking….too many lightning bolts too close. They spilled over in fear and tears. Mortality staring me in the face. Change I cannot control.
When I had collected myself, my friend looked at me with great seriousness and asked me: Do you understand that this is all part of the gift?
All part of the gift. I haven’t been able to get that phrase out of my mind. All part of the gift. The very fact of permitting someone else’s life to be part of my own means that ultimately, I must share in the pain as well as the joy. All part of the gift. No connection means no pain at the possibility of separation. All part of the gift. No awareness of those in need means no discomfort at not being able to meet that need. All part of the gift. No cross, no crown No Incarnation, no Redemption. All part of the gift. No cherry-picking just the pleasant parts in life.
As I bow my head before I eat my breakfast, I say it all again, humbled and grateful and wondering what gifts lie in store for me this day.
Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, through Christ our Lord…..
And then the comfortable words of the mass come in my mind as a response:
May we glorify You through Christ our Lord, through Whom You bestow on us all that is good...
And I remember that God only knows how to give good things.
All part of the gift. It just becomes a matter of seeing how.