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A presence that brings more than understanding; it brings peace

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Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P. - published on 01/16/24

I somehow felt the support of encouragers, the prayers of intercessors, and the gift of God himself. In that moment, I believe the Lord spoke to me.

We each have our own ways of describing the spiritual life. Some use more reserved terms: “In prayer I felt drawn to … ” Some use more assured terms: “The Lord said to me …” It’s difficult to find the proper tone, one neither overly-modest nor overly-cocksure. There’s a faithful balance to strike when describing the invisible presence of grace. 

I typically don’t pretend to know exactly what’s going on in prayer. Whether sitting in the chapel or pausing for a moment of recollection, I rarely receive clear affirmation or communication. I trust the Lord will sort out my life with sufficient clarity over time. Here and now, I’m content to wait in silence. Which is why a recent experience has me so bemused.

I recently flew back to Switzerland for a few days to defend my dissertation. It was to be the culmination of my academic work. I had spent three years writing at the University of Fribourg — three beautiful but decidedly difficult years. At last, they had come to an end.

Because my efforts had been so grueling, I simply expected more of the same for the final push. The days leading up to my defense confirmed the suspicion. I found it difficult both to sleep and to focus. But, the morning of, all of that changed. I woke, joined the community for prayer and Mass, took a little walk in town, ate an almond croissant, and made a visit to a beautiful chapel near the university — all very peaceful.

When I arrived at the university and the defense began, I was surprised to find myself calm, content, and speaking a better French than I had managed in three years. As the questions came from the jury, I was surprised to find myself offering (passably) coherent answers. As the ordeal approached its end, I was surprised that it had gone tolerably well.

I’m not sure how one identifies the movement of grace, but I think it might be something like what I experienced. Throughout the morning, I somehow felt the support of encouragers, the prayers of intercessors, and the gift of God himself. In that moment, I believe the Lord spoke to me. If I’m being honest, I’m still not sure what he said, but I’m not especially worried about it. For his presence itself is enough, his presence which bears a surprising peace.


This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

PrayerSpiritual LifeThe Human Being Fully Alive
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