The title above is taken from a little book (A Tree Full of Angels: Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary) by Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, who was a Benedictine monastic of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (While writing this I discovered that she had died just five days ago on April 24, 2020, at the age of 81). If you are searching for God in your life and in your experiences I recommend you read any of her books. In them you will find examples of everyday spirituality, and creative rituals for investing your life with meaning.
The reason that title came to mind was as a result of a challenge I was given on Facebook. If you dont do social media (and Im a fairly recent participant myself) this particular challenge involves posting a photo online for 10 days of a person or place that means something to you (but without giving an explanation). Its a nice challenge really as you get to share some aspects of your life (as much as you wish to) with friends you are connected with online. Of course I could easily have found recent photos and put them up one after another. But for some reason this challenge set me off down memory lane. Perhaps because we are still in lockdown at home, and I have some time on my hands, or maybe because I am missing family that I haven’t seen for weeks – for whatever reason I took down the photo albums and spent some happy hours trawling through the years of my life. I looked at pictures of Mam and Dad (both passed on many years ago) sisters and brothers, friends, pets and all the decades of my life – highs, lows, sadness, gladness and all in between.
What struck me more than anything was how blessed I have been. I was spoiled for choice in picking out pictures of people who meant something to me. I am a people “picture taker” – I know people who go on holidays to take pictures of famous sites etc and if someone steps into that picture, it is ruined; whereas for me, a person in the picture makes all the difference. So I found my pictures easily enough – my son as a toddler, making his First Holy Communion, my sisters and myself in a school photo, an adult photo of my seven brothers and two sisters and myself, the first time we have been together in many years.
The memories evoked by this simple challenge were wonderful. For the first time in a long time, I sat and reflected on my life’s journey, how wonderful it has been, the wonderful people God has placed in my life through family and friends, the many blessings and love that has been showered on me, and the adventures, relationships, experiences and sometimes disappointments that have shaped me. I saw the direction and twists and turns of each decade and I remembered my anxiety at particular times, but looking back I can see that a better hand than mine was steering me along the journey. And I have no doubt that the same hand is supporting me and steering me through this time of uncertainty and worry about the future. So a simple challenge on Facebook has become for me an occasion of reassurance, and an opportunity to acknowledge that I too have been given the gift of a life that contains its own tree full of angels. For that I am truly grateful!