Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
Christ comes through others, all year long

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Dec. 21, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell The Emanuel, “God With Us,” we celebrate at Christmas is often most real in the presence of someone facing desperate or painful circumstances and yet still having hope. My friend Cheryl brought me face to face with God this past year.

Her 10-year-old son Gabe lives with a seizure disorder. At the beginning of the year this little guy’s medication kept his seizures under control, but as the year went by one medication after another failed. More than once Cheryl rushed him to the emergency room.

Doctors discovered the seizures originated from an area of abnormal cell formation on Gabe’s brain. They might find a medication that would help temporarily, but surgery to remove part of the brain soon became the only possibility of controlling Gabe’s seizures.

He underwent tests to determine if he would indeed be a good surgical candidate. The family coped with more hospitalizations and trips to Seattle to visit the neurosurgeon. Soccer season turned into basketball, as Gabe tried to continue school and sports despite drug side affects and the constant threat of a seizure.

The good news came. Surgery would be possible. The not-so-good news followed. There was only a 50-precent chance it would succeed. Early in the year Cheryl could not even imagine the frightening possibility of her child undergoing brain surgery. Little by little, she grew in acceptance as scary possibilities became real circumstances. 

Being with her throughout this challenging year I know she suffers most for her son and for all he has endured and what is yet to come. She also struggles with her own feelings of sometimes overwhelming grief and fear. She continually relies on her faith that God loves Gabe, that God remains with her, and will remain faithful to her family no matter what happens.

This is not wishful thinking, not denial of pain and anxiety, but the real hope we celebrate at Christmas. Not hope in the future, but hope in the Christ who lives. Now.

Henri Nouwen says our hope in Jesus is not based on whether things will get better or worse, but on the promise that God will stay with us no matter what happens. He says, “We must enter the tomb from which Jesus speaks to us about hope. This means honestly facing the despair we are dealing with in the world today. We cannot go around despair. We have to go right through despair. We will never know what hope is, until we have tasted real despair.”

This Advent, Christ seems so close I could reach out and touch him. Cheryl’s hope through despair puts flesh on God for me.

Often during past Advents I would long for the real meaning of Christmas to shine through and make a difference in my life and the lives of my children. From the time the children were small we made a celebration of each Sunday in Advent. We sang, lit candles, read scripture and prayed. During December we made a special effort to share our time and money with people in need, trying to keep the focus on relationships rather than shopping and presents.

Throughout the season I waited and yearned for some spiritual experience beyond the ordinary. If I set aside enough quiet time, opened my heart wide enough, gave generously, the newborn Christ would change my life in some way that would satisfy more than any gift under the tree. This rarely happened.

This year, through the faith of a friend, I’m beginning to understand: Christmas is just one day in 365. When my kids present me with long lists of things they want, and I realize the high point for them will not be Christmas Mass, but unwrapping gifts, I will relax and enjoy. The Christ Child we celebrate who came to earth so long ago comes again today, same as yesterday, tomorrow, and every day.

© 2006, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, has been published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Contact her at

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