Message from Joy Shillingsburg, Director of Outreach Ministries
A Meditation on Grace:
Thirteen years ago Grace, our beloved Yorkipoo, entered my family’s world, and like God’s grace, turned our world upside down by offering unmerited favor and unconditional love. Two weeks ago our best friend Gracie crossed the rainbow bridge, and the most fitting headstone/Facebook engraving I could offer to sum up her little life was Anne Lamott’s words that “dogs are the closest we come to knowing the divine love of God on this side of eternity.” In the depths of grief over this loss and in the absence of a structured ritual or liturgy to mark the passing of this creature of God’s creation I have sought solace in Franciscan theologians’ writings about “ensouled” animals and been reflecting on the life of Grace.
Remembering her beloved cat, Mango, Sister Ilia Delio in her book The Hours of the Universe: Reflections on God, Science, and the Human Journey says:
“To be a creature of God is to be brought into relationship in such a way that the divine mystery is expressed in each concrete existence. Soul is the mirror of creaturely relatedness that reflects the vitality of divine Love. I did not have to wonder whether or not Mango had a soul. I knew it implicitly by the way he listened to me talking or thinking aloud, the way he sat on my office chair waiting for me to finish writing so he could eat, or simply the way he looked at me—eye to eye—in the early morning, at the start of a new day. Soul existence is expressed in the language of love. . . .Love makes us something; it makes us alive and draws us into the dynamism of life, sustaining life’s flow despite many layers of sufferings and disappointments. . . If God is love, then the vitality of love, even the love of a furry creature, is the dynamic presence of God.”
Gracie showed us God’s love every single day. She was an ambassador during Viv’s tween years, she connected us to so many humans on a million walks, she was a furry warm lap presence to friends who visited while grieving, she slowed us down, made us notice, helped us heal when we were sick, brought out playfulness, and gave us countless hours of laughter. Grace ushered us from heartbreak to happiness and forgave us for every single thing. Grace celebrated every occasion, ruled our world and trusted us beyond measure. We still see her, hear her in our house and feel her deep imprint on our hearts- I suspect each of you who have loved a creature has felt this type of Love.
Finally, I think it is worth sharing the 23 year old song, Grace, that has been my anthem these past couple of weeks. The theologian and lead of the Irish rock band U2, Bono, sings the truth about our Grace and grace and I hope you enjoy it: