Night light

My daughter, serving today at Mass, stands near the communion rail in her white alb. She catches my eye, and we both grin at the song ringing through the church: “We will run and not grow weary, for our God will be our strength…” Still on the disabled list for high school basketball, she is coping with the aftermath of a foot sprain from eight long months back. X rays, MRIs, orthotics, physical therapy, a cross country season wiped out.

She was cleared to start basketball practice this week—and then sprained her ankle. Perhaps only a sports person can get the impact of this setback. But here she is, singing the words from Isaiah: “I am strength to the weary; to the weak I am new life. Though the young may grow weary, I will be their hope.”

OK Star Wars fans, here we are on Ice Planet Hoth—Chicago in January. Night descends before 5 pm. It’s obviously time to seek that far more reliable Light of the World, who sticks around no matter the weather.

The news serves up our daily quota of darkness: murders, war, corruption, abuse. But if you want to see the Light of the World working in the human heart, keep your eyes open—these moments do not usually make the news. “Attentiveness is the beginning of all prayer,” says poet Mary Oliver.

My daughter’s friend comes over. He mentions that his parents have taken in his mom’s sister and her children to live in their small flat. “How come?” I ask. “Oh, they were foreclosed,” he says. “It’s not so bad, I still have some space of my own,” he says, “and the other old lady who boards with us doesn’t take up much room.” I am speechless. No adolescent drama here—just a teen and his family quietly doing a work of mercy.

The kids who attend the children’s liturgy of the word at Sunday Mass always bring up the gifts for the offertory. Today our friends’ lovely young daughter, who has autism, is among them, clutching a box of cereal brought for the food pantry. After approaching the altar with the others, she heads back to her pew, climbing into her mother’s lap. Her mom looks her in the eye with a beaming smile and wraps both her arms around her daughter. The apple of her eye.

We drive to Holy Cross parish for Urban Dolorosa, a memorial event to honor more than 260 children killed by street violence in Chicago in three years. The name of each child is read aloud, while the choir sings, “Pour out your heart like water for the lives of your children—let justice roll down like waters, righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Claretian Father Bruce Wellems concludes his reading with the name of a young man he buried the day before.

Holding lit candles, we follow the violinist and singers into the neighborhood; the song continues. Young men in hoodies stand on the street corner watching. Father Bruce stops the march in front of a house where another young man he knew was killed several months ago. Families pull aside the curtains and crowd the front door of their homes. On the way home, my husband says out loud what we are all thinking, “So what are we actually going to do about this?”

All this in six days. Imagine collecting such moments throughout the year. The Light of the World waits around every corner if you only pay attention.

This afternoon my daughter comes out of physical therapy with her fist in the air, having been told that she can start basketball practice next Monday. She puts on the Star Wars CD in the car and plays the triumphant music all the way home. Today her smile can melt all of Ice Planet Hoth.

—by Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2012 Best in Class award from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for the past three years running. Here’s a sample issue.

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