Faith of Our Grandmothers

I was in church one day when 75-year-old Jane called my name. I was on my way out after Mass, minding my own business when Jane, seeing I was available, called an audible.

I turned to see Jane slow-walking, pulling a young lady I’d never seen by the arm toward me. Jane makes it her business to introduce herself to every new face at Mass. With the currency of time, interrupted only by her doctors’ appointments and visits with grandchildren, Jane lavishes newcomers with the gift of her time and attention. Jane wants to hear their stories and makes it her mission to ensure each new church attendee comes back for more Jesus.

Jane called me off of the bench and put me on Team Grandmothers for Jesus, even though I’m nowhere near grandmother status yet.

She introduces me to this young lady, Sarah. Jane then instructs Sarah to tell me why she’s in church, waves her arms about to announce her departure then shuffles out, leaving me to tend to Sarah.

Sarah looks to be in her early 20s as she has new tiny brown baby hairs still growing out around her temples but her eyes hold a grown-up secret.

Following Jane’s instructions, Sarah tells me, “I’m here because my grandmother died a few weeks ago.”

“I’m so sorry to hear,” I stammer. I’m assuming she’s in church searching for consolation.

“She was sick for a long time, and suffered a lot.”

I don’t know what to say so I say nothing. Instead, I practice the holding-space-for-someone posture that I’ve been reading about.

“It was all because of me. It was FOR me.”

I tilt my head and take a stab at what she’s saying.

“Do you mean she offered up her suffering for you?”


“Did she tell you so?” I ask.

“No, but I know. I just do. I realized it after she died. It was so I would come to church. It was all for my faith.”

Sarah, in a moment of grace, and without the normal means of knowing, understood her grandmother suffered for a long time with a prolonged illness for Sarah’s, her granddaughter’s, conversion.

Then, Sarah started to cry while I absorbed this profound example of an offering of suffering made tangible and real before me.

I managed to stammer something like how incredible and grace-filled it was that she knows this.

“I’m grateful you shared this incredible story with me. She must have loved you so much,” I say.

More tears fell down Sarah’s cheeks.

Sarah’s grandmother — surely a devout church lady – one whom I had never met, taught me something: pain can be directed; It can be purpose-filled. She took to heart the easily thrown-about term ‘offer it up’ and wrapped it with the tender tissue of a grandmother’s love.

Jane, a sage grandmother in her own right, knew Sarah’s story and wanted me to hear this in-the-flesh example of redemptive suffering. Two faithful matriarchs: Sarah’s grandmother and Jane, through Sarah, made palpable for me the redeeming sacrifice of love.

The gray-haired and the blue-haired matriarch are regulars at daily Mass, in the pews of every rural or urban corner of the praying world. Everyone in the congregation recognizes them, and though they are not privy to anyone else’s age, they announce theirs in the same breath as their names upon the first introduction.

The persistent widow in the bible has nothing on the pleading, prodding, and persuasive grandmothers. That’s why people have these grandmothers’ numbers on speed dial because everyone knows they are the prayer warriors of all time.

There’s an old Korean saying: love flows downhill. Your kids aren’t gonna love you nearly as much as you love them because a downhill flow is ordained by nature.

I surmise that a grandmother’s love flows downhill twice, first to their children and then to their grandchildren. Her love is seasoned with wisdom, practiced, purified, emptied of self-anything, deepened, and rich. Its color is more vibrant, its form more pleasing than its descent down the first love hill. It gathers speed and barrels down faster; nothing will stop its momentum.

Their perpetual prayers and sacrifices impart the grace of God like a Red Sea moment. Moses carried his staff; these grandmothers tote their Rosaries, Divine Mercy prayer cards, Bible devotionals, scribbled prayer intentions on folded note cards, family photos, you name it, and, of course, they tote the love.

We celebrate them for the gift they are to our faith and communities.


Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash.

This post was originally published on The Greatest of These and is reprinted here with permission.



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