I drive up the winding hill to enter the Prince of Peace Abbey. Inside the chapel, I kneel, taking the posture of prayer as I attempt to untangle my sorted thoughts. My heart is clenched tight. I intend to give God the stubborn pieces that have been buried numb for weeks. I begin to spill my heartache while fighting a familiar despair creeping in. Some of the pieces of my family story, and of this very season of motherhood, seem to be breaking me.
I walk the path outside the church and look toward the abbey garden for solace. A Benedictine monk stops me with a warm smile and hands me a small, laminated saint card that I hold firm in my hand.
The everlasting God has, in his wisdom, foreseen from eternity the cross that he now presents to you as a gift from his inmost heart. This cross he now sends you; he has considered, with his all-knowing eyes, understood with his divine mind, tested with his wise justice, warmed with loving arms, and weighed with his own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with his holy name, anointed it with his consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.
—Saint Francis de Sales
As I read the mysteriously powerful words of this heavenly friend, the balm of the Holy Spirit breaks warm over me. I let that numb ground of my heart soak up the tears that now come.
Here in the garden I miraculously become aware of the piece wedged in my heart that is stealing my peace. I have been leaning heavily on “my own understanding” (Pr 3:5). I have been stumbling hard on a stony, blinding piece of confusion. Confusion about the “everlasting” God and his far-reaching plan. Confusion about how the “all-knowing, divine, wise, warm, and loving” nature of God’s hands are intimately connected to my cross. Confusion clouds my vision from the truth that his “blessing” and “anointing” are upon me to carry this very cross. In my cross, he is preparing me and caring for me in the same manner as for his beloved Jesus—in chosenness. He knows that the more this cross forms me into the likeness of his son, the deeper my capacity for resurrecting joy will be. He is bringing me my deepest heart’s desire—to be made a new creation through the transforming gift of merciful love. He means for me to trust who he is and to embrace this mysterious source of joy—the cross. I had come to the garden with the prayer, “Why, Lord? Why?” And after uprooting despairing confusion, I left praying, “Lord, please teach me your way of love and resurrecting joy right through this cross you have prepared for me!”