Remembering with gratitude: 'Berakah'

by Judy Principe


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I am an Associate in Mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, and as is my usual practice, I began this New Year of 2019 looking back with gratitude at the graces and blessings of the past year, while asking God to present a sense of direction for the year ahead.

Last year I wrote about my Year of Abundant Life. I am humbled, awestruck, amazed and filled with gratitude at God's magnanimity in concretely fulfilling that title!

My life has been abundantly enriched by a deeper sense of God's personal love for me as it unfolds providentially day by day. I think the most important and powerful prayer of 2018 for me were the last lines of a Sisters of Saint Joseph novena prayer to St. Joseph: "Divine Providence can provide, Divine Providence did provide, Divine Providence will provide." And provide it did!

Several years ago, I began my search for a home in a nearby over-55 community. It appealed to me because of its size, bungalow style, convenience, reputation for community, variety of activities, and proximity to my parish church only 1.5 miles away.

Family and friends joined me in prayer, including supplications to both St. Joseph and St. Jude. My search encountered many difficulties and setbacks because of the area's popularity and affordability. Despite multiple bids on different houses at different times, I was always out-bid. It was difficult to trust God's plan for me, since prayerful discernment, sound spiritual guidance, financial information and professional real estate advice seemed to confirm my desire to live in this community.

However, as St. Ignatius counsels, I gathered more information, visited several other possible over-55 residences, and tried to "hold myself in balance" before the viable options I discovered. Prayer and trust were very hard, and I found it difficult to see and feel any abundance.

Early in February, I made an offer that was accepted, and I began all the suggested and required inspections on a house that was acceptable, though not in my preferred part of the development. Several inspections revealed multiple serious problems, and finally I withdrew my bid.

This process was a time of anxiety and apprehension for me; I didn't know what financial burden I might have to take on because I had signed a contract to purchase the house, as required by New Jersey real estate law. The seller could have held me accountable for the purchase. I recall praying the Psalms during this time because they so richly and aptly expressed my many feelings of turmoil, entrapment, fear and discouragement.

In retrospect, it is amazing to remember and savor the tremendous support and encouragement of professional contacts, family and friends. Not only did they companion me during this stressful period, but they also were able to provide sound legal, financial, emotional and spiritual support. Though I appreciated them at that time, I am now even more grateful for their providential presence in my life.

Divine Providence did provide, and God "… relieved my shoulders of the burden" (Psalm 81:6). The seller agreed to release me from the contract, and I was reimbursed the substantial amount of money which I had given as the required good faith down payment on the house. I was — and still am — in awe of how God brought good out of a troublesome situation and renewed my trust in God's personal love and provision for me.

Finally, for several very solid reasons, I decided to change realtors and give up my desire to live in this particular community. On the day I was to meet with my new realtor, a lovely house in a wooded section of my "dream" community became available. My prayer was, "God, this is my last attempt to buy there, and I leave it totally in your hands." Within three days, my bid was offered and accepted, and the purchase of this house was under contract. The inspections went well, and I moved into my new home in May.

Then ensued the sale of my condo, which had decreased in value over the years. With me having two properties and significant financial responsibility for them, family and friends again joined me in prayer to God, St. Joseph and St. Jude. Within three months, the condo sold for cash at a much higher price than initially anticipated — another awesome display of God's presence, power and providence!

In last year's article, I mentioned God as my GPS who guides and redirects me. God as GPS is "Graced Providential Synchronization," and the outcome of this house-buying saga is a marvelous demonstration of what that looks like in action. According to God's timing, God gathered the loose ends, removed obstacles, guided my decisions, worked in the hearts and minds of all involved, and orchestrated all the circumstances to achieve a beautiful abundant outcome!

But God wasn't finished lavishing abundance upon me. During 2017, I had developed mobility limitations because of necrosis in my left knee; I had to use a cane and wear a custom-made knee brace. In the fall of 2018, I underwent successful knee surgery and again, I am savoring and basking in the wonderful abundance of healing and renewed activity.

How blessed I am to have a lovely home in beautiful surroundings, with friendly neighbors. I am so looking forward to spring when I can explore and enjoy the peace of this lovely place, able to walk and move without pain or discomfort.

What lessons have I learned? How has the year changed me interiorly? May I never forget and always be grateful that I live in a country which allows me options regarding where I live; and I realize how God has provided me the means to make such a choice. God has deepened in me a profound sense of how I am loved and cared for as God's unique creation.

The awareness and experience of the timing and benevolence of Divine Providence has brought me peace and acceptance that God has always been leading and guiding me throughout my life and will continue to do so. I feel reinforced in my faith, and trust that no matter what happens on my journey, God is with me and works to bring good out of all the circumstances of my life. And I am in awe of Graced Providential Synchronization, which leads me in the right path at the right time while providing supportive community and all necessary resources.

What is the direction for this year? Several words or phrases have come to mind during my beginning-of-the-year prayerful reflection regarding where God may be leading me. Words like, "gratitude," "joy," "appreciation" all seemed appropriate.

But as the year progresses, and I sit in my favorite room in the early morning to begin my day with God, the beautiful Hebrew word, Berakah affectively becomes the backdrop of my interior. It means "an expression of praise or thanks directed to God." May 2019 be the year of remembering and savoring with gratitude, all God has done in me and in my life.

[Judy Principe is an associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Philadelphia. Her professional career was spent in training and development, organizational development and human resources. She holds a master's degree in management and supervision and a certificate in organizational development.]