Watching for Everyday Miracles

Advent has begun, and we are on the watch. In her preaching for the First Sunday of Advent, Cathy asked, “What are you hoping to see this Advent as you keep watch?” For me, the novitiate year sometimes feels like an extended Advent season, as I wait for signs that this time of formation is bearing fruit in personal growth and deeper communion with God, myself, and others. Remembering that even small gestures can offer confirmation, I attend to the day’s events, routine yet full of potential significance. I hope for greater freedom to love the world as God does. Watching for small signs of transformation requires patience, certainly, as well as hope.

Advent wreath before the altar in our House Chapel


Keeping watch reminds me of my morning runs along the Lakefront Trail. At mile 3, the path wraps around Promontory Point, a park that juts out from the shoreline. Every morning, people arrive there before dawn and sit along the rocky perimeter. Surrounded on three sides by water, they look out over Lake Michigan facing east. Some set up cameras. Quietly, they wait for sunrise. As the golden-red solar disk peeps over the horizon, I visualize the rounded surface of our Earth spinning toward its star. How is it that this daily event can be at once so ordinary and yet unfailingly marvelous? Every day the sun rises, and every day people wake to see its splendor. This consistency touched my heart in a special way the morning after Election Day in the U.S. As the nation waited restlessly for final ballot counts, the sun climbed up into the sky, an eye-dazzling miracle. All of us gathered there at the lake savored the moment together, thirsting for beauty and yearning for “a future full of hope” for our deeply divided society. The sun’s rising that day seemed to me a miraculous sign of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.


I cherish these awesome yet ordinary sacraments of God’s presence. In the midst of our broken world, it can be challenging to see God’s hand at work, or even know where to look. Currently I volunteer at Kolbe House Jail Ministry, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s ministry to persons affected by incarceration. Ordinarily, Kolbe House focuses on caring for persons incarcerated in Cook County Jail; however, when COVID restrictions curtailed entry to the jail, the Kolbe House staff shifted their attention to accompanying people on early release. These clients must re-enter a society caught in the grips of pandemic. Upon their release from jail, they have the clothes they are wearing, ten dollars and a bus pass. They are assigned to a transitional housing unit that does not provide meals or bed linens. They have sixty days to obtain a government ID, find a job, and secure permanent housing. On top of these astounding obstacles, many of our clients need support for mental health or substance abuse. Enter Kolbe House. We meet clients’ immediate material need for clothing, food, and transportation and help connect them with resources for healthcare and housing. Above all, Kolbe House is committed to a ministry of presence, accompanying clients as they navigate this extremely challenging transition.


The stark need of clients suffering from compound trauma can be overwhelming. In a staff meeting some time ago, one of the directors described a set of particularly complicated situations concerning two clients: one in an untenable living situation, on the verge of homelessness and tempted to end it all; another with no official record or identifying documents, terrified of being returned to prison after having suffered violence inside. In both cases, the odds sounded nigh insurmountable. The staff hardly knew where to begin. Nevertheless, the director asserted that our team would give all we had to bring these individuals through their crises. “We care about every one of our clients, but these two have come to us completely broken human beings. We have to do everything we can to put them back together.” I listened in awe. Here was a true disciple of Jesus, proclaiming to two persons “with their backs against the wall” that they are beloved children of God. The director had total confidence that, even in these direst of circumstances, God would give these clients the strength to choose life. I felt profoundly aware that this is how God acts: making a preferential option for the most vulnerable sisters and brothers among us. As the Kolbe House staff regularly reminds me, we are called to do the same. The grace God provides to accomplish it is nothing short of miraculous.


I keep watch this Advent for God’s action here and now in our world. I look to the words and deeds of others around me who “make God’s love visible” – an everyday miracle.

Advent Waiting: What are you hoping to see this Advent?