Sometimes the events of a day will open up to teach a lesson, one that is more than many words could ever show. In such moments, the truth can become obvious that has been right in front of our eyes all along.
One such moment happened during a recent retreat at St Anthony’s. I was wandering the cloister halls in the early afternoon during a quiet break. While waiting for the bookstore to open, I was drawn to walk into the inner courtyard garden that opens up from the back hall. It was a clear bright day, dappled with passing clouds; the colors of the Wisconsin fall were just coming into their glory. The garden was carefully tended in a whimsical wildflower sort of way, allowing the flowers to find their own patterns of growth in open beds and pots placed lovingly around the edges of the steps and walls. Bunches of gold and red, white and blue, tipped with the afternoon sunshine, smiled out at me. In the center of the garden was a large red brick platform supporting a beautiful white statue of Mary as queen of heaven, holding the child Jesus. The corners of the platform held large pots of fall mums bursting forth in colors of gold and cream, blessing the feet of the holy family.
I sat down on a bench in front of Mary to pray for a while. The clouds settled in and the white statue was shrouded in their shadow. Mary’s eyes were downcast, she looked only towards the radiant child in her arms, holding Him out for all to receive. The child Jesus smiled outwardly; arms open wide in love and giving without restraint. It was as if Mary was saying, “Look at Him, and see Him as he is, always giving, always there for you since the day you were born.” Suddenly the sun came out from under the clouds in blinding brilliance. Jesus was illuminated in light. His direct smiling face, open arms and heart were transformed. The cold gray statue became white again and radiantly alive with the divine merciful love of Christ. The light seemed to come from his heart rather than the sun, in such intensity that it drowned out everything else around. For several minutes this brightness continued. It was as if Jesus was beaming all the love of his heart to me, such love that I could never fully receive all of it. The directness of his face and open arms made it hard to continue to look on and to take it in at once. Was this a trick of the light or a vision? It did not matter anymore. It was God showing my blind eyes the truth of his love and immediate presence that had been there for me all along.
Moments passed and the sun drew under a cloud. The brilliant white statue faded to gray. What had seemed stunningly alive for several minutes was again cold stone. But the love I had seen could not be forgotten. I looked out at the soft green grass, the flowers cascading down the steps, the open blue sky beyond. They looked brighter too. Each flower and leaf was alive with this life. That same light, that love, which had streamed from the heart of Jesus, was pouring out of each one of them. It was the life that he fed them, his life that he gave to them and me, making each of us sacred. Nothing was ordinary anymore.
The schedule of the day beckoned and I stepped out of the garden into the time worn corridor of St Anthony’s. My eyes were a little more open now. I had been given a gift to see some of the wonder of God’s presence in creation. How strange that I had been calling to Him and He had always been with me. I resolved to take the time to look, to appreciate, and to wonder. And to know that His presence was always shining, even through the clouds, loving and supporting me and everyone.
– Julia Gauvin