That time the Holy Spirit showed up at Publix

Wednesdays are my craziest days. After a full day of work, I have to rush home and eat quickly before picking William up at Science Olympiad and then we rush into the small-ish, city-ish where our former parish is where I still teach Faith Formation (until the end of the school year) and the boys attend FF. It’s a 40 minute drive each way and in rush hour traffic.

After class we trek home usually with no stops. EXCEPT…they’ve opened a new Publix on our way. And the boys and I love Publix. So last week we stopped in for the first time and tonight we went in again because today is payday and we are out of school snacks and coffee creamer.

As a treat, I promised the boys we could get doughnuts. We came to the bakery counter where we were greeted by the kindest smile and countenance. The young woman waiting on us’ name is Olivia. And as we started to give our order, her smile got brighter as she said, excitedly, “Who is on your medal?” I’m used to non-Catholics asking about my Crucifix but rarely about either of the medals I wear on the same chain. I assume it’s out of an over-abundance of politeness and wanting to avoid awkwardness about Mary and the Saints.

I reached for the medals and looked down saying, “This one is my Miraculous Medal and this is Mother Teresa,” as I touched each medal.

Olivia came out from the back of the counter and pulled hers from under her collar to show us and said, “I have St Lucy, she’s my Confirmation saint.”

She returned behind the counter to fill our order when I took a chance, “Were you confirmed at St Mark?”

Her face lit up even more which I didn’t think was possible when I added, “Was A. your sponsor?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed barely able to contain herself.

“I was at your Confirmation Mass,” I told her. I had remembered her Confirmation saint.

We exchanged a bit more before concluding our order and I was sorry the encounter had to end. We wished each other well and the boys and I continued our shopping.

Olivia had no way of knowing that we had just left the Faith Formation or that my maternal grandmother’s maiden name is Santa Lucia. Those details did not go unnoticed by me, however.

What Olivia did know, however, was also not lost on me. She knows the beauty and richness of the fullness of Truth. She knows the joy of recently coming into the beautiful faith I was blessed to be born into. And in that moment, when she saw my medals, she knew the overwhelming feeling of family encountering a stranger who had this amazing faith in common with her. And she knows something else…she knows the power of witness and evangelization. Yes, even our fellow Catholics need to be evangelized within the faith. It is far too easy to take this incredible gift for granted…especially if you are a cradle-Catholic. When you see it in the eyes and the spirit of someone who found it after years of never knowing about it and for whatever reason was reached in the least Catholic state in the nation, the Holy Spirit will take that opening and force in as much grace as possible.

I left Publix tonight feeling like I haven’t in months. I can’t fully describe that feeling, but I know at least in part I knew what an awesome God we serve and the simple joy of loving Jesus and letting Him love us back by sending the Holy Spirit into an ordinary encounter.


Shouting Into the Silence

One of my favorite songs of the past year is Lauren Daigle’s Trust in You. It brought me great comfort in a year when our family lost both of my husband’s parents, my grandfather, and a beloved pet. When your ten-year-old tells you it’s been a rough year, it kind of breaks you in ways you never knew you could be broken.

Brokenness is hard, but beautiful too. The beauty lying, of course, in the truth that it allows God’s grace to flood in and, if we allow it, to change us and bring us closer to Him.

God showed me in the past year lots of concrete ways, within this world, that humanity acknowledges the beauty in brokenness, like the Japanese art of kintsugi where broken pottery is repaired with gold, silver, or platinum so that the imperfection becomes beautiful or the fact that scar tissue is stronger than “regular” tissue.

And God blessed me in the midst of some tragedy with long prayed for things, like my current job.

I have felt a special connection to the Psalms in this time as I have often felt like David, shouting into silence and begging God to relieve me of the pain of the current struggle while simultaneously clinging to Him. God has taken me to some places I could never have imagined both wonderful and confusing. God has let me, like Moses, see my heart’s longings but not allowed me to live in them.

I continue to shout into the silence because the struggles still seem insurmountable some days. I continue to cling because like Peter tells Jesus,

“Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)