A reader, responding to The Ancient of Days, wrote
“This week my [prayer group is praying for someone having surgery]. We have each committed to a day of prayer for her. Mine was yesterday. It is not my habit, but I have prayed the Rosary at times of mourning and times of dire need. Yesterday, as I prayed the last decade I experienced very much the same thing your writer revealed. I wept feeling so loved and so grateful for it. Later, I thought to myself, I have not cried as much in my entire life as since my return to the Church. I had become deadened to emotion as an atheist. Now, my oldest daughter sometimes stares at me during Mass to try to catch me crying. I let her. It is good to feel so alive again. The tears that well up are, as far as I can recall, almost always out of gratitude, not sadness.”
I’m sure they are. A wise old nun once told me that some people are “gifted” with tears, and this is a very great gift, because the tears are an outward manifestation of Wisdom and Understanding. Those, of course, are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and with them comes gratitude, and with gratitude comes increasing JOY, which is one of the Fruits of the Spirit.
And Joy is one of the Spirit’s most powerful fruits, because it attracts others, who want it for themselves. It is often remarked that NY’s Archbishop, Timothy Dolan is a “joyful” priest, and he understands the power of that gift. “Happiness attracts,” he says, simply.
To be imbued with Joy is to be a missionary to the multitudinous “everyday people,” people who are perhaps not burdened in an especial way, but who have just lost track of “what there is to be happy about.” If you work the thread backward, a fruitful Joy can help beget the gifts of Wisdom and Understanding upon others.
If one does not have some measure of Understanding, one cannot find and feel gratitude. I have a friend like this. Ask her what she’s grateful for, she can come up with her kids, her health and her car, and that’s about it; she is always in a semi-funk and slightly depressed. She tells me that outside of giving birth, she has never felt joy, and that did not last, as the joy was soon consumed by anxiety. It does not occur to her that the fact that she can lift a cup of coffee to her mouth, unassisted, is something for which to be grateful. If you said it to her, she’d roll her eyes and say, “well, of course,” but knowing that the ability to feed oneself, or shave, or breath without help is a good thing is not the same as really understanding the gift of independence. And if you cannot understand that gift, you can’t feel proper gratitude for it. And if you can’t find things for which to feel grateful, everyday, you will never feel a sustained joy, or even a deep-but-unsustained joy.
But if you can feel gratitude, even if it gets a little wet and teary sometimes, then you are on the track to owning real joy. You are blessed.
And of course, the beauty is of it all is, once a gift has been bestowed, it is never taken back. A gift is, in fact, a process of Incarnation, a different sort of “flesh for the life of the world,” the indwelling of Christ in us, working members of His Body.
So…once you’ve identified the Gift Freely Given, you’re supposed to share it, with love, among the whole Body. As Christ did when he shared all of himself, for you and me.
I think it is a good and courageous thing that our reader allows her daughter to see her crying. We’re all so afraid to show our vulnerabilities, and ’twas ever thus. We forget the Pauline Paradox: When I am weak, then I am strong.
Related: Weakness is Sown; Strength Rises Up