I am discovering that one of the best parts of the work that I do is listening to stories. I am aware that listening to the person I am with may be a gift to them. But the stories they tell are often a gift to me, though I suspect few would ever see it that way.
They are stories filled with fragility and vulnerability, suffused with beauty and grace. But they are not my stories to share, not here, not ever. That is one of the hardest parts of the work I do. The most precious times are wrapped tenderly with a sacred silence. And so much more of it is hidden; it is not only hidden from the view of others but also hidden from my own view. I can never know for certain where the blessings actually fall, whether my words or presence have much effect.
During my diaconal year, I didn’t really know what to do with the stories I was told. I held them as the gift they were, but they felt awkward, cumbersome, heavy. Now, as I stand behind the altar celebrating Mass, I hear the words of others weaving in and out of the words I am speaking. The many stories of sacrifice and offering, longing and desire, hope and wholeness intertwine intimately as they are played back to me in the drama of the eucharistic prayer.
And when I come to the doxology, I feel the stories returning to the one who is their source, leaving in their place only the wordless beauty of blessing in the bread and wine I hold in my raised hands.