What does grace look like?

This month’s feature comes from the Reverend Dr. Richard Laribee, friend of the Center.

One of my friends is a young man with a wicked sense of humor that brings joy to those blessed to know him. Not only does he see humor—especially irony—everywhere and in everything, but he often sees the humor that the rest of us miss. Happily for us, he not only sees the humor, but loves to share it with his friends, making the worlds a brighter place for us.

Because cerebral palsy impairs his speech, my friend communicates primarily through gestures, such as a well-timed rolling of his eyes or shaking of his head. And once he gets you laughing, he’ll join in with the best, most wonderful, raucous laughing imaginable.

One sunny afternoon when we were first getting to know one another, we meandered around the neighborhood, he in his motorized wheelchair, I walking beside him. Toward the end of our outing as I finished telling him a little about my life as an Episcopal priest, we came to a rough patch of broken sidewalk.   As he carefully maneuvered his motorized wheelchair between two potholes, a wheel suddenly slipped and fell into one of the holes. I shouted something unprintable, terrified he was going to fall. Fortunately the heavy machine didn’t fall over, and he managed to drive out of the hole. Once the danger passed and my heart rate returned to normal, I said to him, “Way to go… you made the priest swear!”

And he laughed and laughed and laughed—that wonderful, raucous laugh. Which made me laugh too.

That’s what Grace looks like.

What does grace look like?

This month’s grace story was submitted by Jesuit novice Shaun Slusarski

As part of my Jesuit formation, this past May my brother novices and I served as nurse’s aides at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. Dubbed the “the Vestibule to Heaven,” Calvary primarily offers hospice care to patients facing terminal illnesses. During our six week visit, our care was primarily bodily — we bathed patients, fed them, and helped them go to the bathroom.

One morning, a crotchety but affable octogenarian summoned me to his room. He wanted to use “the Jonathan”, and the tone in his voice indicated how much he loved his variation on the more typical slang for toilet. I walked him into the bathroom, but when he had finished, I noticed that he had made a bit of mess. He cracked a joke about it, and we bantered back and forth as I began to gently wipe his legs, his back, and his bottom.

Before I left, he shook my hand and thanked me for helping him use “the Jonathan.” He took such mischievous delight in that term. “I promise that in ten years when I’m dead and gone,” he said, now with tears in his eyes, “You’re going to think of that word – ‘the Jonathan’ – and it will be me trying to reach you from heaven.”

I left his room, now with tears in my eyes too. I was in awe at the sudden depth that had emerged, and astonished by the power of the new connection I had with this man. I was amazed that God’s Presence could be manifested through an accident in the bathroom, the playful tenderness it provoked, and “the Jonathan.”

I hope he keeps his promise.

That’s what grace looks like.

What does grace look like?

What does grace look like?

This month’s story of grace by Center Director Jim Krisher

I was privileged to spend three weeks this past July on a mission trip to Zagreb, Croatia, where I worked as a volunteer with Jesuit Refugee Services. I had daily contact and rich conversations with many beautiful but suffering people in three refugee camps there.

I met men and women and a significant number of unaccompanied minors, most from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, as well as smaller numbers from other troubled countries in the middle east and beyond. They had fled their countries, leaving behind homes and possessions to escape the horrific violence of war, or religious persecution, or ethnic hatreds and extremist threats. Many had already lost loved ones or entire families. Their stories would break my heart, and I felt so helpless because I couldn’t make things better for them. I only hoped my caring and attention to their stories brought them some small comfort in the face of so much tragedy. What does grace look like in the midst of such sadness and pain?

There was the twenty-three year old man who had to flee from Bangladesh because he was Hindu, and some extremists among the Muslim majority were killing or maiming the Hindu minority. His father was already dead, and his mother was in the hospital after having her arm chopped off by the extremists. Yet this wide-eyed guy with a gentle smile still nurtured hope for a better future for himself and reunion with his mother in a safer country. That’s what grace looks like.

There was the young married couple, also twenty-three, who had secretly converted to Christianity in Iran, where that is a crime punishable by death or decades of imprisonment. They had fled when their conversion began to be whispered about and the religious police learned of it. I sat in their little room at the camp in awe of the passion in their voices as they spoke of Christ and their dedication to Him. That’s what grace looks like.

There was a young Muslim man from Aleppo in Syria, who had fled the war there with his pregnant wife and their three-year old daughter. His city, he told me with his scant English vocabulary, was “all gone” and the people of the city were “all dead.” Yet here he was in his shabby refugee camp, holding his little girl on his lap and smiling at her with such tender fatherly love. It could be months of waiting to hear if they will be granted asylum or not, yet for him the important thing was the well-being of his family and looking toward a new life for them. That’s what grace looks like.

And I could go on and on telling such stories.

These refugees are the victims of human sin, driven away from their homelands and often shut out by countries that could provide them safety and assistance. Yet God does not turn away from them. Deuteronomy tells us that God loves the foreigner and seeks justice for those on society’s margins – and that we, as God’s people, are commanded to do the same. (DT. 10:18-19)

Not only does God care deeply about refugees and how they are treated, but God’s Presence shines through their often tear-filled eyes. As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

I saw that abounding grace during my time in Zagreb, and I will never forget that experience. Video version of this story. For more grace stories click here.


Online library search is now available!

Online library search is now available!

Our library of over 10,000 books is now available by clicking here. Search our library from the comfort of your home. Our group of volunteers have been working tirelessly with their fearless leader Molly Wilber, MLS to help us in this transition.

Check whether or not we have a particular book by title, author or subject. You may place a temporary “hold” on an item, and will also remind patrons of overdue books.

We are certainly excited to share this great improvement with the community!

What does grace look like?

This month’s submission comes from Jim Krisher, the Center’s director.

He was sitting opposite me, a recently retired man telling of the unexpected turns in his life. It had been years since I’d last seen him, and in those years a lot had happened.

Chief among them was a major stroke that had severely affected his wife’s memory. While there were no outward changes in her physical abilities, mentally she was greatly diminished, unable to remember conversations from one minute to the next, prone to hoarding even bits of refuse, and needing near constant supervision.

He also explained how unable he was to connect with God in any of the ways he had connected in the past — through formal prayer, church involvement, spiritual reading, etc. He had not the least desire to even try to do those things anymore, and was concerned about what that said about his faith and relationship with God.

“Where I meet God is in caring for my wife, in loving her. My whole life revolves around her. People ask me all the time how can I do it, or if I’m resentful of the demands this makes on me. But I don’t resent it at all! In caring for her I experience God’s caring for me. God is so real for me in those moments it almost overwhelms me!”

Meet the Board of Trustees

Pictured here are members of our Board of Trustees. We are so grateful for the faithful commitment, knowledge and leadership that guides the ministries offered here at the Center. We will certainly miss Kay Satterfield (not pictured) who is relocating. Thanks Kay for sharing your many gifts with the Spiritual Renewal Center!

Ignatian practitioners

What a wonderful opportunity for folks who previously experienced the Spiritual Exercises to stay engaged and in contact with one another. Pictured here is a group who meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month to share their faith experiences. The group is facilitated by Fr. Lou Sogliuzzo. If you’ve participated in the exercises and would like to learn more about the group, give Fr. Lou a call at the Center 315-472-6546.