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Seeing Clearly: “The Holy Befold”


Editor’s note: As part of FMS’ 2018 Lenten blog series, missioner Anna Klonowski shares a reflection on seeing holiness from Barking to the Choir by Father Greg Boyle.

As part of my personal commitment to learn and grow while on mission, I recently read a book by Father Greg Boyle called Barking to the Choir*. As a whole, Barking to the Choir talks about the transformative power that unconditional, mutual love—or kinship—has had in Father Greg’s life and the lives of the gang members and former gang members he lives and works alongside in Los Angeles, California. The book is a touching, challenging, and genuine read that left me with a lot to think about and a lot to act upon in my own life.

One moment of many that made me whip out my pen and paper to jot down a note came from chapter two: “The Holy Befold.” Father Greg explains this slightly peculiar title with a short story from his life:

Whenever Gato, a large, burly gang member, is telling a story and approaching the climax, he wants to say ‘And lo and behold’ but says instead ‘And holy befold.’ I never correct him, because his version is better than the original—indeed, it is the sacred, the holy, unfolding right before our eyes. We tend to think the sacred has to look a certain way… But lo—which is to say, look—right before your eyes, the holy is happening, even if you are hesitant to believe it (p. 35).

This simple yet profound reminder that we don’t have to look far away to find God in our lives is illustrated time and time again throughout the book—and it made me ask myself whether I live my life acknowledging the sacred moments unfolding in front of me.

Sometimes I do—when I’m laughing with a friend, or watching the delight on a nursing home resident’s face when they talk about their life, or sitting around the table enjoying dinner with my community.

But life is so much more than just these moments of happiness and fulfillment. Life is also frustration and sadness and uncertainty—hopefully not in equal parts to joy, but many people do live an unbalanced reality. It’s in these times that I find it harder to see holiness. Yet, as Father Greg puts it, we live in a “universe soaked with grace.” I am striving to recognize a little more each day that no matter how I am feeling and what I am experiencing, God is there.

Reflection question: In what aspects of your life do you see holiness?

*I highly recommend reading Barking to the Choir, as well as Father Greg’s first book, a New York Times Bestseller, Tattoos on the Heart. These books do contain strong language, but they contain an even stronger message of love.

Long-term overseas mission is a natural extension of the ideals and interests that direct Anna’s life. At the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, she connected her deep faith with her enthusiasm for social justice and women’s leadership while studying theology, Hispanic studies, and global business leadership. Anna fell even more in love with the Spanish language and Latin American culture during a semester in Xela, Guatemala. Her call to care for creation revolves around a desire to preserve the world for those who are marginalized, as well as for future generations.