A Moment of Grace
story is told about Riorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New
York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of
World War II, was called by adoring New Yorkers ‘the Little Flower’
because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his
lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New
City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take
entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York
newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday
funnies to the kids.
One bitterly cold night in January of 1935,
the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of
the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and
over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old
woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of
bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had
deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were
starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen,
refused to drop the charges. “It’s a bad neighborhood, your
Honor,” the man told the mayor.
“She’s got to be punished to
teach other people around here a lesson.”
sighed. He turned to the woman and said, “I’ve got to punish
you. The law makes no exceptions — ten dollars or ten days in
jail.” But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was
reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it
his famous sombrero saying: “Here is the ten dollar fine which I now
remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom
fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so
that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the
and give them to the defendant.”
So the following day the New
York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a
bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving
grandchildren, fifty cents
of that amount being contributed by the
red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals,
people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of
whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the
mayor a standing ovation.
What an extraordinary moment of grace for everyone present in that courtroom!
The grace of God operates at a profound level in the life of a loving person.
Oh, that we would recognize God's grace when it comes to us!
The Ragamuffin Gospel,
In the end everything
will be all right, nothing can harm you permanently;
no loss is lasting, no defeat more than transitory, no disappointment
Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement and death
will be part of your journey, but the kingdom of God will conquer all
No evil can resist grace forever.
(The Ragamuffin Gospel)
world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is
revealed not only in spirit
but in matter - in a deer leaping across a
meadow, in the flight of an eagle, in fire and water,
in a rainbow
after a summer storm, in a gentle doe streaking through a forest,
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,
in a child licking a chocolate ice cream
cone, in a woman with windblown hair.
God intended for us to discover
His loving presence in the world around us.
(The Ragamuffin Gospel)
God loves you
and loves you
as you are and not
as you should be.
My deepest awareness
of myself is that I am
deeply loved by Jesus Christ
and I have done nothing
to earn it or deserve it.
We should be astonished at the goodness
of God, stunned that He should bother to
call us by name, our mouths wide open at
His love, bewildered that at this very
moment we are standing on holy ground.
The only kind of love
that helps anyone grow is
Several years ago, Edward Farrell, a priest from Detroit, went on a two-week
summer vacation to Ireland to visit relatives.
His one living uncle was about to celebrate his eightieth birthday.
On the great day, Ed and his uncle got up early. It was before dawn.
They took a walk along the shores of Lake Killarney and stopped to watch the sunrise.
They stood side by side for a full twenty minutes and then resumed walking.
Ed glanced at his uncle and saw that his face had broken into a broad smile.
Ed said, "Uncle Seamus, you look very happy."
Ed asked, "How come?"
And his uncle replied,
"The Father of Jesus is very fond of me."
If the question were put to you,
"Do you honestly believe that God likes you?"
-not loves you because theologically he must - how would you answer?
God loves by necessity of his nature;
without the eternal, interior generation of love, he would cease to be God.
But if you could answer, "The Father is very fond of me,"
there would come a relaxedness, a serenity, and a compassionate attitude
toward yourself that is a reflection of God's own tenderness.
In Isaiah 49:15, God says:
"Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you" (JB).
"No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you;
I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Reflections for Ragamuffins, p 4