When I was in the fourth grade at St. Anne’s School in Wausau, our teacher asked us to make some art showing how we know God. It’s a lovely thing to ask anyone of any age. After scratching my neck and mussing up my hair, I knew what to do. With pencil on light blue paper, I drew an outline of the human head, in profile. It was my head, I suppose. Then I took a glue bottle and, starting at the middle, I laid down a spiral moving outward until it filled the head. Finally, I carefully placed a piece of white yarn on the curvy line of glue. I entitled it “Conscience.” Lucky or graced, I knew from an early age that God spoke to me, giving me a sense of what was right and what was wrong.
Now, many decades later, I would do it differently. I would write a poem to express the memory of myself as a sheltered young adult finding the inner wherewithal to somehow gracefully clean a nursing home resident’s bottom after the man soiled himself during a field trip. I would make a sculpture of a large and gentle hand holding a broken heart, loving it and keeping it from falling into despair. I would attempt to paint the glory of a glacial lake in the Rocky Mountains, the first sight of which made words stop in my throat. “Serve … Trust … Marvel.” Truly, God speaks in many and varied ways.
An online Catholic dictionary defines the “Gift of Counsel” as what God gives us “to enable a person to judge promptly and rightly, as by a sort of supernatural intuition, what should be done, especially in difficult situations.” It applies to situations of right and wrong, certainly, but this gift also beckons us deeper into God’s life with advice like: “Steel yourself and get down and dirty” (nursing home); “Let me love you and help you trust in a joyful future” (broken heart); “Be still, stand in awe, and let gratitude fill your soul (Rocky Mountains).”
You might find it presumptuous to think that God speaks to you, but I hope you don’t. Hard as it can be to identify, God speaks to you and me. This is God’s Gift of Counsel. Every day, every moment, God tries to lure our hearts deeper into His.
The days of Holy Week have the potential to make us aware of this constant divine activity in our lives. In recounting the washing of the feet, the humiliation of the cross and the victory of the Resurrection, we can connect these events in the life of Jesus to our own call to service, our own sorrow and pain and our own conviction that the sacrifices we make for the sake of love are so well worth it.
Father Thomas Krieg
Pastor of St. James the Greater Parish in Eau Claire