We were at the wake of our friend, Fr. Joe, when I saw the most beautiful prayer. A young man kneeled at the casket, held his open hands out so that his fingertips just touched, and closed his eyes. He then raised his open hands to his forehead, touching it briefly, and then got up to sit with the community. I had never seen anything like it before, at least not in our Catholic tradition, this seemingly physical gathering up of grace and intention and the lifting of it all to God and to his own mind and spirit. It was so humble and beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.
Hands have been on my mind these days.
If you read my work, you might know that I sometimes hold the hands of a Mary statue outside my chapel and give her all my worries so that she can bring them to her son. I know it’s stone, and not actually Mary-the-Mother-of-God, but holding those hands helps me connect in a physical way to that motherly love and protection I so need. There I audibly ask Mary, God, and my Mom to keep their hands on my kids. For our children, it seems there can never be enough hands.
When I’m very deep in prayer, I often have a sense of my life’s journey as one long walk with God. In my mind’s eye, I’m little, maybe eight years old, and He’s holding my hand and showing me the deeper meaning of things as we walk it out together.
In our chapel community, we shake hands at the sign of peace and we also extend ourselves across the aisle and hold hands as we pray the Our Father. It’s a practice I don’t see often but when it happened spontaneously today at Fr. Joe’s funeral, it made me smile. Holding a hand is something you do when you’re in a family, parent to child, sister to brother. It’s familial, humble and kind.
Lately I find God calling my attention to hands, and to ways we could stretch our hands out to bring the family of God a bit closer together in this time of great divide. This is the first in a series of pieces on what this work of hands could look like, and I ask for your prayers and feedback as I explore this theme. So if you’re a practicing Catholic or a ‘roaming’ Catholic, if you’re a Christian from a Protestant denomination or from no denomination, if you’re not part of a church right now for lots of good reasons, or if you simply hear Jesus calling your name with His gentle, small voice, this series is for you. We’re family. Let’s extend our hands to each other across aisles of all kinds and lift them up to the Father who hears every prayer.
These are troubled times and we’re all in this together. Let’s have all hands in.