Lisa Hendey—Mrs. Catholic Mom herself—wants to be on Survivor. And ride a Harley. And after reading this book, darned if I don’t think she’ll do both. The Grace of Yes is a wonderful mix of stardust and Crisco—a blending of the mystical with getting dinner on the table.
For example, Hendey notes: “I’m continually challenged to remember that ‘feeding the hungry’ often means cooking a square meal in my own kitchen and that ‘clothing the naked’ doesn’t mean I can neglect our family’s huge laundry pile.”
There is a lot in this little book: a lot of big things, a lot of surprises (like Survivor), and a lot of truth. There is an honesty that’s hard to find these days. And I think there is a prescription for exactly what we need in these days: to say “Yes” to God.
Hendey looks at the world, honestly viewing all its troubles and problems—and she’s seen them in terrible clarity and closeness, from the waiting rooms of cancer treatment centers where she waged her own battle against cancer and watched others, including young children, fight painful wars with the disease, to the killing fields of Rwanda—and she sees the choice that confronts our world in what Daniel McInerny has termed our “apocalyptic time”. As McInerny put it, our civilization suffers an “ontological impoverishment”: we “don’t have the foggiest notion of who we are and what we’re doing on this planet.”
Confronting this “ontologically impoverished” world, our choice is to either turn inward, or turn outward. We can turn inward to ourselves, to our own desires and comforts and self-indulgence and avoidance of pain and discomfort, to try spending our days in distraction, eating, drinking and making merry while awaiting the final drop of the curtain. Or we can turn outward, to look outside and beyond ourselves and see what we can do to, as Hendey puts it, “be the change we desire to see in the world.” As Hendey says, “we must challenge ourselves to not only look for portraits for selfless love each day but also indeed to paint our own.”
Hendey’s also honest about our own weaknesses and limitations. What we can do to make the world a better place might seem like only “baby steps,” but, as she notes, those baby steps are “my start.”
Most important, if we want to transform the world, Hendey says that we start by transforming ourselves. We have to give our own “Yes” to God, and let God work in us. Because while the work of transforming this world may be too great for us alone, it’s not too great for God.
If we are willing to let God work in us, then we should prepare ourselves to be amazed, because “there is absolutely no reason to box in the possible ways in which” God can work through us to change the world.
Not that it comes easy. Hendey is also honest about the fact that saying “Yes” to God is a “radical” step, and: “It’s a daunting task, this yes to God.” She reminds us that “Mother Mary, whose yes to love meant not only giving birth to God’s son but also giving him over to a destiny that meant so very much grief and pain.” But if we can walk the path, “our yesses have limitless potential”. As Hendey says, “I can’t wait—at path’s end and God willing—to fully discover the grace of my yes.”