An Encounter

November 28, 2015 | Reflections from Sr Antonia

She seemed to appear from nowhere as she gently touched my arm to gain my attention. Startled, I turned and found myself looking into a face etched with a great depth of pain and suffering.

I had been out to a medical appointment and we had stopped on the way home for some refreshment. It was in the course of this transaction that the young woman had appeared and, in a soft voice full of respect, spoke to me, offering assistance. The whole encounter lasted but a few minutes, yet it touched me profoundly. In spite of what was obviously her own suffering, she had looked beyond herself in an act of kindness (the detail of which remains personal).

Hands As she turned to walk away I stopped her, asked her name and, after she had told me, offered to pray for her. In response her eyes filled with tears, and gesturing to a small figure by her side she said: "Pray for him, he's autistic." I had not noticed the little boy until this moment, but in an instant I understood what this whole encounter was really about… it was about God. My nun's habit spoke to her of God and she believed in His mercy and compassion so completely, that any barrier to communication that might have otherwise existed between us, was removed.

Promising to pray for them both I walked away, my heart melting in gratitude and awe. Two "strangers" had connected, and the connecting cord was God. And yet… it was her faith, her courage, her love and her compassion for her son that had enabled God to act. I rejoined the sister who was with me, still quite overwhelmed, and also profoundly grateful for having experienced such faith. I felt truly blessed by the whole encounter and hopefully she did too. It was God who was doing the blessing, and it was meant for both of us.

The words that come to mind as I reflect on all of this are: "If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is 'Thank you', that would be enough." I think this is Meister Eckhart, although I am not sure about that. What I am certain of is that the only prayer I want to utter in response to this whole encounter is THANK YOU, as well as many a prayer for this beautiful young woman and her autistic son.

Thank you