Leaven Blog

God is bigger than your eclipse

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

I often find myself in situations that require more courage than I’ve been graced with, and that’s when I most appreciate my Catholic faith.

A few years ago, I came across the story of a 20th-century nun on the road to canonization, Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad.

She was known for a little prayer that spoke to my timid heart:

Dear Lord, I do not ask to see the path. In darkness, in anguish and in fear, I will hang on tightly to your hand, and I will close my eyes, so that you know how much trust I place in you, Spouse of my soul. 

When I read that, I felt an immediate kinship with Mary Elizabeth, and her prayer has become my prayer on many occasions.

As our country prepares to experience the eclipse on Aug. 21, many in our archdiocese will find themselves, through effort or happenstance, in the path of totality.

For a few minutes, we will be plunged into midday darkness — locusts will chirp, birds will nest and dogs will curl up to sleep.

News has been thick with information preparing us for the event, and hearing it has brought to my mind Mary Elizabeth’s little prayer.

As a writer, I love a metaphor; and the total eclipse seems like a perfect one to illustrate God’s presence in our darkest moments.

When the moon moves in front of the sun, it does not extinguish the light, but only conceals it.

The distance between the moon and the sun makes them appear the same size to us; but, in reality, the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon.

Similarly, sometimes the obstacles of life can become so great in our imaginings that they conceal the light of God.

At those times we need to trust what we know to be true beyond the darkness we’re experiencing — God is still with us.

Patient faith will allow His light, which is greater than any of our problems, to shine again, making visible our path to redemption.

Another favorite quote of mine is the beginning of the eleventh chapter of Letter to the Hebrews:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops describes this passage as “painting an inspiring portrait of religious faith, firm and unyielding in the face of any obstacles that confront it.”

I think it is a perfect verse to reflect on during the eclipse, remembering that just as the sunlight is still shining behind the moon, so God is always with us during our darkest times.

Pope Francis canonized Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad in a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square on June 5, 2016.

Her sainthood was initially proposed because, as superior of the Brigittine house in Rome, she saved many Jews during the Nazi occupation of that city, concealing families inside the convent for six months before the war ended.

How often this brave sister must have said her little prayer during those dark days of Nazi occupation.

Saint Mary Elizabeth knew in her heart God’s light would shine through.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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