Elizabeth Reardon recounts the story of how God worked through a suffering, elderly woman to bring grace to another suffering soul.
If she could stand, she would undoubtedly comprise all of 5 feet. Slowly, age and physical limitations have taken her ability to walk, then stand—and the wheelchair that she once could move can no longer be maneuvered on her own. Yet on the inside “Grace” towers, a living witness to a profound spirituality, her inspiring reverence and appreciation for the Eucharist is faithfully compelling. In her suffering, she has shared not only of her struggle but of the gift and essentialness of communion and community.
It was about 10 years ago in the beginning of our Eucharistic ministry to the nursing homes that my husband and I first met Grace. My husband, having left Harvard when our economy took a major downturn, was initially unsure of this assignment but more than ready to feel of use again. While he was certain that he could impart a bit of company and joy to those he visited in fulfilling this ministry, he was not prepared for what he would receive in return. His week spent researching the classifieds and applying for new jobs would prove relentless except for Sunday. Always faithful, but at times lukewarm in intensity, Sunday was the day he reserved for God. Little did he know that God had so much more in store for him through this simple step forward in faith.
While wanting to go with him in these first few visits, I prayerfully held back, feeling God was preparing John for something special. So I watched as John hurriedly left the house with pyx in hand and a head full of concerns, unquestionably working on the following day’s to-do list. However, no matter how he left the house, I could not help but notice that he never returned the same. Peace and joy had consumed his countenance and he practically overflowed with a renewed strength. During this otherwise incredibly stressful time, God had opened a window.
After a bit of time, of observing all of this, the day came when with hopeful expectation he suddenly asked, “Would you like to go with me today? There is someone I would like you to meet.”
This was the moment I had patiently waited for. “Of course! Lead the way!” Though he carried a handwritten list of names and rooms with notes beside each, it would be completely unnecessary. He knew each one and wasted no time in introducing me as we entered with a rap at the door.
As we neared the last room he paused, grabbed my hand and a huge smile overtook his face. Behind the door awaited a woman in the throes of complete dementia, who no longer recognized family or friends, yet would “awaken” each week for Communion. This was the one he so eagerly had wanted to share, the one who had inspired the transformation that I witnessed.
“Hi Grace! It’s John from St. Peter’s. I brought my lovely wife with me today.”
“It is really SO good to see you, thank you for coming and making time for me. I cannot tell you what this means,” she exclaimed.
After chatting for a few minutes about our families, health and week, John asked “Grace, would you like to receive Communion?”
“Oh, yes! I REALLY need that!” she replied, with hands clasped and eyes closing immediately in prayer.
“We all do Grace; we all do,” he answered without hesitation.
Where might God be asking me to see His grace in my day? How might I be a better means of that grace to those around me?
Copyright 2022 Elizabeth Reardon
About the Author
Elizabeth Reardon is Director of Parish Ministries and Pastoral Associate for the Collaborative Parishes of Resurrection & St. Paul in Hingham, Massachusetts; a wife and mother of three; certified spiritual director; and writer at TheologyIsAVerb.com. Her writing is an invitation to seek and create space for God in the midst of the busyness of everyday life.