beholdBack in my coaching days I learned to develop a particular kind of vision: I saw details of my athletes’ performance that others would miss. This one slouched a bit; that one overreached; and so on. The vision was the product of careful, attentive, even loving work. What others saw was just a boat full of rowers, either winning or losing.

I think that the Christian life involves a similar deepening of vision, of attentiveness. How else can we explain the ways we see the world and do what we do?

A few days ago I was walking from class, in a good mood on a beautiful day. Spring in Chestnut Hill is absolutely gorgeous, and I was just enjoying the walk. But I nearly stopped in my tracks when I saw something that moved me, almost to tears. A beautiful young woman had one arm around the back of a girl of maybe 13 or 14, a student at the Campus School for children with severe disabilities. With her other arm she was holding the girl’s hand as she stepped up onto a curb after crossing the street. What struck me was how tender and intimate was this physical contact—in a word, how free. Christ was right there, in flesh.

Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote about beauty that often goes unseen, “but the beholder wanting.” How I wish others could have seen what I saw that day! Such tenderness, such attentiveness to the need of the moment, to the opportunity to love.

Perhaps our prayer, our liturgy, our moral action, our practices of discernment—perhaps all these are simply the practices that make us ready to behold the opportunities to love. Perhaps the Christian life is about becoming better beholders, better able to see the lighting flashes of divine grace that erupt underneath the flesh of those around us.


  1. This brought back memories of 1,000 immigrant students I taught – K-12th grade.
    How would they be accepted? Ridiculed?rejected?ignored? I felt their anxiety – the same I experienced when I was 4, coming to the U.S. In the 1950s after WWII. The nuns as well as the public school teachers showed us we were loved, accepted – that set the tone for being accepted by the students & community.

  2. I will give them a heart of flesh (Ezekial 36:26). Your encounter with the young woman and girl reminded me of my beautiful daughter and grand-daughter and their life together. Thank you.

  3. Your article on Behold touched me, moved me to tears, and to love even more. Your writing it, in itself, is “the beholder wanting”.God bless you for more beholding.

  4. I too have felt and seen this divine grace in very “unforseen” moments. For example, when I go to Adoration and I see a young mother bring her 4 young children, including an infant, to the altar, in order to genuflect and adore Jesus. It is so moving and precious to see the love she has for her children and her Lord. God’s love is ever present in these seemingly “insignificant and ordinary” moments.

  5. I truly relate to your “awareness” of God-in-the-moment. I am traveling the difference between prayer and pray. As an traveller, I have found God just sitting in the woods, the mountains, beside a stream, and in a cafe in the hands of a kind waitress. God taps me on the shoulder (sometimes pushes me on the back) to see Him in even the unkind response of another. My prayers are not always the same as praying. When I simply sit ensconced in the beauty of his Creation He fills my soul with a joy that has no words. The small turtle on the rotting tree limb next to the stream is God’s way of communicating to me when I ‘open my eyes’ as I move among His Love.

  6. Thoroughly enjoyed this touching little piece.
    Thank you Tim
    Michelle Stowe Ong MD
    Sat next to you on plane!


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