This past year, after a careful discernment process, the De Soto Franciscan Farm was transferred into the ownership and care of a lovely family from the greater St. Louis area. With all the memories that were made there over the years, prayers that were said, connections that were forged or deepened, it was very difficult to let that gorgeous, serene piece of Mother Earth go. I only spent a year there, but even so, I still feel the loss deeply. I can only imagine the hole that it has left in the lives of many Sisters and their friends and family.
The decision was made before the unprecedented instability that is all around us emerged. Dramatic change can leave us feeling frightened, sad, anxious, conflicted, or deeply distressed. It’s normal and to be expected. Even changes that seem insignificant in the scheme of things can really stir us up. When I was living in California some years ago, a new priest came to my parish and decided to buy cushions for the hard, wooden pews. What a ruckus it caused! There was a lot more to it than just the surface level change of adding some comfort to the furniture, of course—differing opinions about how best to spend church funds, for example—but nonetheless, even that apparently small change was hard to handle.
So, how do we as Catholics deal with these myriad changes, large and small? Where do we turn? I find the answers I need in many places. Here are just a few.
Scripture is a great place to look for comfort. Isaiah 43:19 says “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” God has a plan. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Water is turned to wine. The wood of the cross becomes the sign of our salvation. My limited human perspective cannot possibly understand how all the pieces will fit together, but I can accept and find rest in the assurance that they will.
Countless saints have validated our faith when facing dramatic changes in their own times that mirror our own—pandemics, civil unrest, injustice. If trusting God was good enough for them, well, it’s good enough for me. “… All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” is the most recognized and beloved quote from the Revelations of Divine Love by the 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich. It provides comfort in times of doubt, darkness, loss or confusion, reaching across the centuries to touch our hearts and sooth our minds. The solace that our gentle, loving God spoke to Julian’s soul promises that at the deepest, unified heart of all that is, God is cradling us in safety—the most tender of mothers.
Another thing that makes change easier for me is looking back and recognizing how previous experiences have created space for the Holy Spirit to work with me in a new way. I’ve come to believe that all the changes I’ve been through have been blessings. They may not have felt like it at the time, but they were. I believe that God engineers new opportunities and challenges for my benefit, whether I know it or not! God does the same for you.
Nature reassures me of the positive value of change more persuasively and consistently than anything else. Since before I was a Christian, I intuited the Spirit of God in creation, and the created world is constantly changing. A seed becomes a cedar. Mountains are built up and broken down. You can never step into the same river twice. Stars make their transit through the cosmos. Caterpillars become Monarchs and snakes outgrow their skins. Winter inevitably—always—turns to spring.
Change isn’t always easy, but it can be an opening for good to flourish if we let it. Look around at the creativity and amazing acts of love and kindness have been happening in the face of Covid-19! I wonder what new approaches to our problems might emerge from people who are afforded some much-needed time and quiet by sheltering in place?
By the same logic, the De Soto farm may be in other hands, but children are playing there every day and the house is being renewed. Before the farm was sold, we made a donation of equipment and supplies to St. Isidore Catholic Worker Farm in Cuba City, WI. Those materials are helping to support their members and provide food for the homeless and hungry in their region.
A single grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, producing much fruit.
So much good comes from change. We just have to trust and let the blessings flow.