This autumn has been a season of deep gratitude and growing awe. Whether it has to do with my age or my circumstances or a combination of both, I increasingly find myself in ever-widening circles of spiritual seekers — most of them women — who are not content to accept the status quo but are pushing boundaries and forging bonds to form friendships, ministries, tribes and communities that nourish and support their relationship with the Divine. Multiple times over the past two months I have found myself among these amazing women, and it seems somewhat miraculous to me, as though we each have an internal homing device that leads us to one another at precisely the right time.
Most recently I was asked to lead a retreat for moms at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in northern New Jersey. I marveled that so many young mothers — some with babies in carriers, others bringing little ones to the nursery — came out for the morning event. I remember how difficult it was to make time for spiritual pursuits when I was raising my three children. But these moms — with the help of their parish — were prioritizing their spiritual lives, which is good news for them and for all of us. When I met Linda, the woman who had founded the parish group 30 years ago, and Maureen, another soul sister I’d previously met only on social media, I felt as though I’d been welcomed into a spiritual sorority where we were already pledged to the One who defines our being. So much grace.
From there, I drove west to visit a friend I’d met almost 40 years ago, when we both worked for the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. Dorothy, who had spent almost 30 years as a cloistered nun, was a laywoman running an evangelization office when I met her. Almost 30 years my senior, she became a dear friend and mentor. As we embraced after too many years between visits, it was as though no time had passed at all. Our visit was set to a holy rhythm. We prayed together before meals, said Night Prayer before bed, and went to Mass together in the morning. Dorothy is once again a Catholic sister, having renewed her vows, and I was blessed to be in her presence, to soak up her wisdom, to marvel at her absolute trust in the Lord, and to share so much laughter and joy. Grace upon grace.
I returned home from my road trip to a lunch outing with one long-time friend followed by a fall foliage hike the next day with another local soul sister. The day after that I taught one of my three weekly yoga classes and felt my heart filled to bursting with love for the students who have become friends. When I sit on my mat while they are in their final resting pose, breathing and making space for the still small voice, I sometimes look out and feel so much beautiful spiritual energy and love in that room that I am close to tears. Undeserved grace in unlikely places.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that these beautiful people who seem to surround me on all sides these days didn’t just arrive in my life suddenly. They have always been there. It’s just that I was only able to see and appreciate them when I was willing to poke through the cocoon I’d wrapped around myself and tentatively unfold the wings of grace that are ours for the asking.
The world can be a beautiful but difficult place; there is no need to go it alone. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two for a reason. We need each other. When we open ourselves up to that reality, we find grace and gratitude around every corner.
Where is grace hiding in plain sight in your life today? Take a risk. Spread your wings. Your tribe is waiting.
This column originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2022, issue of The Evangelist.
Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash