I do not go to church often because I don’t seem to find God there. I find Him at the beach, I think we are kindred spirits. I also find him at Holy Cross Abbey during silent monsatic retreats. Some years ago, I discovered during a retreat, that God comes to you. Indeed, He does.
I attend these retreats not because I’m a religious person, but because I’m a spiritual person, and sometimes I need to reset. I go to ground myself. Re-center. I go to dig deep and find the reservoirs of grace and forgiveness and loving kindness that I have buried deep in me. I go to meditate. To still my thoughts and to practice Being Here Now. Each time I go, I find that God does come to me.
I’ve been struggling to find Grace. I gravitate towards people who seem to have an inherent baseline of grace in their DNA. I have an inherent baseline of impulsivity and absurdity. So I am always working on grace. Practicing grace. Remembering to invite grace to be my friend and come to happy hour with me.
On this retreat, God came to me, and brought me grace. Meet Grace. This is what she looks like today:
See, I recently had to put my 20-year-old cat down. It was the most traumatic decision of my life. I never wanted to be put in that position again, to have to decide to take a life even when I knew intellectualy it was the right thing to do. La Chica, however, thinks I’m much more resilient than I really am, and has been begging for another cat. The Boy only grunts these days, and he too grunts his agreement. I stood firm, No cats.
Then, after hours of hiking, hours of sitting by the Shenandoah River, hours of reading, hours of meditating, all in silence, a fellow retreatant pops up and asks, “Want a kitten?” I had been looking for God, and once again, God came to me.
This was the cutest, cuddliest, meowiest kitten ever. She seemed about 6 weeks old, and starving. She was found in a bucket in a horse stall in an abandoned barn. There were no signs of her mother or siblings. The foxes would surely feast on her soon. I explained why I couldn’t take the kitten, but we both felt bad returning her to the barn and to an almost certain fate. We decided to hold on to her for a bit and ask the monks what we should do.
As we walked, I asked the retreatant her name, “I’m Grace,” she said. Well, that did it. I’m a big believer in signs, and a woman named Grace offering me a kitten in a place that is sacred to me cannot be ignored. You don’t just turn down the gift of Grace.
So my heart was torn. I melted for this cat. Yet I didn’t want to be put in the position to potentially put another pet down again. I realized that fear was living 12 years from now, and I needed to Be Here Now. The next right thing was to bring the cat home. Today is what I have, and I was literally holding Grace in my hands, and Grace was meowing at me.
On this retreat, I was reminded about many things through meditation, reading, and Father James. I was reminded about unconditional/conditional love, trust, faith, empathy, being human. About enjoying moments and people and things for the value of those moments and people and things, and not for an end goal or future outcome. Those were all wonderful and timely reminders. But as I sat in those, I knew God had not come quite yet, until she did.
I came looking for God and Grace. They both came to me in their own time, as they always do. And Grace came home in a box.