This Thing Called Grace

Day Twenty of Thirty Days of Writing

Photo provided by Pexel

She knelt before the alter, staring at the statue of the Virgin Mary before her. She had found herself in this same spot many times. It offered her comfort, security…..peace; one she couldn’t find anywhere else.

Hail, Mary, full of grace….

The statue’s painted locks of hair touched her shoulders, and the white cloth draped down her back. Her blue cloak was opened, spread out around her like the heavens in the sky. Her outreached hands seemed to grab for the sorrows in the prayer’s heart, as if she longed to take the burden off of them. There was a softness and humility about her only a Mother would have. The flames of the candles surrounding her danced in joy as if they were singing “Hallelujah!” The young woman felt a presence around her….grace was the only word that came to mind.

She had always loved words- words that have different meanings, ones that can be used in different parts of speech. She especially loved when these types of words provided a different perspective on life and how to live it. For instance, the word love: she felt it is one thing to have love; it is quite another to love. That simple change from a noun to a verb provided her a different perspective on life. The word grace did the same thing…

She first heard the word grace when she was a young girl. Her grandmother, a devoted Catholic, taught her to recite the Hail Mary, even before she could read.

Hail, Mary full of grace.

Until she went to kindergarten, she had believed grace was the veil the Blessed Mother wore. She would mimic her grandmother’s statue by wrapping a bed sheet around her head calling out to her grandmother that she was wearing grace. No one realized the girl had misunderstood the word for a garment.

Throughout her school days, though, she used the word grace more frequently as an adjective. The word was tossed around often at her dance studio as the younger dancers would watch the older ones while the instructor would point and say, “See how she dances so gracefully, girls? With practice, one day you’ll be able to dance like that?”

She had practiced. She danced with passion, and she danced with energy. But, grace was not an adjective anyone would have labeled her movement. During her practices, she found herself falling on the floor more than leaping gracefully in the air.

She remembered hearing news anchors use the word “grace” to describe Princess Diana and other women who were softly spoken, eloquently dressed, and confidently stood before their adoring audiences. She, however, was always reminded to use her inside voice and felt quite proud on the days she returned from school with both earrings in and not a stain on her shirt. Those days were rare. Grace, she thought, was not an adjective used to describe her.

Years later she heard the word grace used more as a verb: thank you for gracing us with your presence someone would say when she arrived late, which was often. Grace as a verb had an egotistic connotation that didn’t sit well with her.

In recent years, though, she heard it used as a noun. If you practice gratitude you will find grace she was told. Her practice had started off small, stemming from personal intentions rather than spiritual ones at first. Every day she wrote down 3 things she was thankful for that day. Two years later, it transformed into something more spiritual- one she couldn’t quite find the words for- a longing… a thirst for something much bigger than herself. This feeling- this movement- began to change her. It started to soften her heart, shape her in ways she had never imagined possible, and provided her experiences that left her breathless and only able to describe to others as grace.

She turned her gaze to her folded hands; she bowed her head and began with the words where her journey first started: Hail Mary, full of grace…