Friday, January 6, 2017

My, How You’ve Grown!

By Sr. Andrea Koverman

Typically reserved for young children, this is not a comment most adults are accustomed to hearing.  It’s a joyous exclamation that gives expression to the wonder we experience when witnessing an infant transforming into a toddler, a child, an adolescent, an adult.  I’ve had the happy good fortune of sharing my office for the past few months with the precious new son of the director of the organization where I minister, and I have said those very words to him myself!

2 months old
5 months old

 So, I was surprised when Sr. Annina Morgan, still one of the sharpest dearest wisdom figures in my community at the age of 100, recently said something similar to me. I was one of many joyful people gathered to witness Sr. Annie Klapheke professing her first vows in early December, and went to say hello to Annina before the ceremony began. I remarked at what a happy occasion it was and how it seemed only yesterday that I was doing the same as Annie. I leaned down to kiss her velvety cheek and when I drew back and looked in her big brown eyes, she said, “But it’s already been more than a year—and look how you’ve grown!” Followed by an invitation to reflect further on that with, “How have you grown this year, Andrea?” She never lets an opportunity like that slip by!

Srs. Annie Klapheke and Annina Morgan

Musing and praying with that question has occupied my spirit ever since. Much more helpful than my typical where-have-you-failed-end-of-the-year reflection, this how-have-you grown reflection feels more fruitful already.

I have to admit that I am glad to see 2016 go. I can easily generate a list of blessings, joys, and gifts that I received during the year, and I am genuinely truly grateful for each of them. But, it has been a year of considerable loss and sorrow for me as well; things I never dreamt would happen have, and people I wasn’t ready to lose have gone. Sometimes I have felt like the battered little fishing boat out on the Sea of Galilee with a sleeping Jesus seemingly unconcerned or unaware of the storm I was struggling to weather. Mercifully, those moments pass relatively quickly, and hindsight helps me see how those painful experiences have helped me to grow in faith and trust in God. Like a best friend who just grows dearer and dearer, it is love that sees me through and love that gives me confidence that as Julian of Norwich said, “All is well, and all manner of thing shall be well,” come what may.

I know my heart will continue to break as I endeavor to live out my community’s charism of responding with care to the needs of our time in ways that are sure to feel risky. In his homily at my mother’s funeral now several years ago, Fr. Gino looked at my brother and sister and me sitting with our arms around each other and told us we would have to make a conscious choice that day. Rather than allowing our hearts to close in an attempt to avoid the kind of pain we were feeling, we would have to choose to love again, which with all certainty would mean we would suffer again. 

On January 4th, we celebrate the feast day of the foundress of my community, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who relied on God’s grace to give her the courage and strength to choose to love again each time she experienced a fresh heartbreak. That grace saw her through the deaths of her husband and two children, through the rejection and scorn of family and friends when she converted to Catholicism, and through the many obstacles, hardships and disappointments of starting a new religious community. “Be prepared to meet your grace in every circumstance of life,” is a commonly cited quote of hers. In reflecting on the year behind me, I whisper a prayer of thanks for the grace that leaves me with a heart in tact and open to love despite my own heartaches. I wonder how “prepared” I am to meet God’s grace for whatever is coming next, and I pray that I am even more aware of God’s gift of readily available and always accessible grace in the year to come.

Like I used to tell my students, hoping to do well is not the same as being prepared to do well—that takes effort. How can I prepare to meet God’s grace? Just as it is with any relationship, the most important thing is time. Time for talking, praying, listening, meditating, just being and enjoying each other’s company. In the busyness of life, I’ll have to make it a priority to invest the time with God that will allow our relationship to deepen or it won’t happen. Making the effort it will take to grow in awareness and reliance upon meeting my grace is at the top of my new year’s resolution list! What’s at the top of yours?

1 comment:

  1. You have given voice to what I have been thinking. Thank you so much.


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