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Editor’s Note: As part of our “Comfort and Joy” Advent/Christmas blog series, former community member and friend of FMS Kate Flannery shares the comfort she’s found during her time living at home with her parents before her wedding.

My worn tires coasted into our driveway after their 900 mile journey. Only a year and a half ago, they had driven out of the same driveway towards Denver. Now, I was home—living with my aging parents for six months before getting married.

It’s been an adjustment. These past months have been filled with doctor’s appointments, hospital scares, confusion, and pain as my parents have faced different medical conditions and the typical effects of aging. These past months have also been filled with laughter, long late-night conversations and dancing in the living room with my dad.

It’s been a time of privilege as I get to accompany my parents through new stages of life that stretch our family. It’s been a time of listening to their hearts and gazing into their eyes even though I often do not have answers to the situations of hardship that confront us.

We take turns leaning on one another, supporting one another, and taking care of one another. Several nights I’ve sat up with a parent and listened to their struggle as they’ve battled sickness and pain. When I can, I respond with words. Mostly, I listen. And I pray. I ask the Lord quietly for healing and wholeness. I ask mostly for his strength and his peace. I give him praise and thanks for the gift of family—for this beautiful time at home.

I do not know the level of comfort I give my parents in these quiet conversations and day to day moments, but I know that my small example of accompaniment is what we are all called to—whether it be with our friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, or the strangers we meet. Accompaniment in the mundane, unromantic moments of each day. Accompaniment that looks in the eyes of another, listens to their story, walks with them in the midst of their experience and prays for their good.

It is this type of encounter that leads to love, the foundation of our society, the core of what it means to be human.

I look at my parents throughout these moments and I love them truly, freely—in a way I perhaps don’t even understand. I think God needs to see us grow into that—to do these little, courageous, simple but heroic acts of love that lead to quiet but unshakeable joy.

I do not write this to say that all acts of encounter, accompaniment, and self-less love have fairy tale endings. Oftentimes, we don’t get to see the fairytale. What is more magical than the fairytale is the accompaniment itself: the encounter. It’s the breaking down of self-made walls of protection and control and opening yourself up in vulnerability to the divinity of the person in front of you. It’s our response of love to the call from God set before us. It’s the joy we experience in giving of ourselves in service and love to another.

Question for reflection: Do you know someone who is walking through a difficult time right now? What “simple but heroic act of love” can you extend towards him or her?

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Kate Flannery is the Social Media Coordinator at the Catholic Apostolate Center. She received her Master’s Degree in Leadership for the New Evangelization from the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. To follow her blog, please go to http://smallprintsinabigworld.blogspot.com

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