A Holy Gift
Holiness for you too!
By Michael Gartland
Loyal readers may remember that, sometime ago, I wrote about the profound influence and many gifts that the relationship I shared with my grandmother had bestowed upon me. Recently, her family and friends filled all the pews in her parish church, as they joined together to celebrate her special-ness. But dear reader, do not console me for my loss, nor offer your assistance in whatever way you can help – for I have already received something far greater than you could give!
I’ve only ever heard my Grandma raise her voice once. I was visiting her house with my dad and my sister, and it was time to go. As we opened the door to leave, a voice called out from the hallway “Wait, don’t go yet”! We could hear the slow, yet deliberate shuffle that indicated Grandma’s approach; her walker came into view, she stopped, gathered herself, and then continued around the corner. She walked past us, took the lid of the ornamental glass vial and taking a bit of the water on her thumb, she dabbed everyone of us.
She had always had this vial of holy water sitting by the threshold, as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, on this particular visit, we had lost track of time and had to make a quick departure as other commitments were pressing. Dad, a little bit frustrated at the delay, said “Ma, you know this won’t actually stop a car crash, right?”
“Michael,” came Grandma’s stern reply. “We’ve had this conversation before, and I will not have it again.”
On the night when my family were preparing their individual parts for the funeral, tensions were a little strained. We were under the pump in trying to get the booklets to the publisher; it was a late night and everyone wanted the service to be absolutely perfect – we all had different ideas on what that looked like though! Eventually, while she was redrafting her assigned prayer of the faithful for the fiftieth time my sister exclaimed “I just want to say that Grandma believed in God, and that made me do it as well”.
How profound! What gift could be greater? The thing is though, Grandma never really did make any explicit intent of forcing this gift onto us. Growing up, whenever we visited we were never told that we had to believe in God or speak about what we thought of faith. We were never forced to sit still while she said the rosary, nor were we dragged along to mass. We were never told that we should have a vial of Holy Water in our home by the threshold and make use of it whenever we left through the door. Grandma simply lived her life how her faith inspired her to, and this is what we experienced and then took on. Perhaps this is the mark of true holiness within a person; a campfire on a cold dark night, that inherently draws others in to share in the warmth and brightness?
Coming into the Christmas season, I am reminded of a similar experience, albeit in a very different context – one we will hear about in the last week of Advent. We will be told about how Mary, now an expectant mother, journeyed to visit her cousin Elizabeth and as the result of Mary’s presence (completely enriched by her faith), incredibly, not only was Elizabeth also filled with the Holy Spirit, but even her unborn son lept for joy in the womb!
Fast-forward back to 2018 and try as we might to ensure that our Christmas’ revolve solely around Christ, it will seem like an inevitable fact of life that we must give gifts. We will no doubt get stuck trying to figure out what will be the best, most perfect gift for our friends, co-workers, families or those in need. We could put in a double effort and buy something that our recipient would really like to show that we care for them, or we could pick up something that they mentioned in passing a little while ago to show that we listen, or we could just settle for a gift card because we’re not sure what they are into but want to show we at least put a little thought into the gift. Or, perhaps practicality and a innate need to cause no offence will win the day and will just rely on the usefulness of cash, chipping in on something that our recipient was already planning on purchases, whether that end up being some kind of new technological toy, or that week’s groceries.
However, just as Mary did when she travelled a long distance to visit her cousin.. Elizabeth and my Grandma did when my sister visited her, there is an alternate option. Presence: the gift of ourselves in every minor interaction throughout every single day of this Christmas period and afterwards. For, when we are present, truly present within ourselves and with others, we begin to become luminous and it is this luminosity that fosters peace, love and joy amongst our various communities. And this, perhaps, is the most authentic expression of holiness that we can ever hope to achieve during our time here on Earth; a presence that fills those around us with the Holy Spirit.