A Culture of Encounter

autumn11Sister Constance Veit wrote an article in the Catholic Times recently where she relates meeting Pope Frances when he showed up at the home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington D.C.. Her joyful experience reflects Pope Frances lived message, calling us toward an “encounter culture” lifestyle. I love that expression and I have thought about it a lot these past few days.

As I go about my daily duties: teaching, studying, cleaning, cooking, talking with the kids, I am reminded that every moment can be an “encounter moment” – if it is intentional. To be honest, my day often feels like a well intentioned resolve which devolves into a series of colliding events: a day at the circus, but nobody gets paid.

But every so often, I catch myself in the midst of what might appear to be random chaos, and I stop and pray the moment from meaningless madness toward a purposeful encounter. I have prayed in an encounter moment while correcting papers, I have prayed in an encounter moment while standing outside under a perfect autumn sky, I have prayed in an encounter moment while chatting on the phone, while talking with one of my children, while making bread, while knitting… In fact, I have discovered that there is no moment that can’t suddenly be lifted from the mundane to the momentous by a few seconds of reflected prayer. In those brief ticks of the clock, I become truly aware of the present value of the encounter before me, opening myself to all that grace has to offer. Long evening shadows falling against a wall, the smell of wood smoke curling up the chimney, the wispy tendrils of hair falling over my daughter’s cheek, all become sources of wonder. I discover treasures hidden in plain sight.

I suspect this meaningful moment is the whole purpose of art, to remind us of these mysterious treasures, to have an “encounter” with our own lives. Pope Frances speaks to the whole world, reminding us of profound realities when he reminds us to live intentionally, to live as a culture of encounter. In truth, there is nothing too profound for the human heart, if we allow God’s grace to enter and encounter Him in everything.

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