Cannonball Moments

cannonball and cannon
My car entered into a spin that left me pressing locked brakes and clutching a wheel that could not be steered. Halfway through the spin, the momentum brought the car onto its outer two wheels—the side where the gas tank is housed. The sounds of the steel arching beneath me as the car fought to right itself inspired my desperate prayer: “Lord, is this the day I’m going to see you? If it’s ok with you, I would really like to stay longer.”

430 degrees later, my car landed heavily back down on all four wheels.

I stumbled out of the car. The tears started before I hit the curb—I couldn’t contain them. It wasn’t because my car was totaled or because my body hurt. While both were true, these were tears of gratitude. Just five minutes earlier, I had asked my son to accompany me as I went to pick up his brother. He declined, maintaining that he wanted to stay home and count his pennies.

So, as I sat on that curb, I cried because he had stayed home to count pennies, which meant that he wasn’t in the seat that had weathered the first impact. And, because he was home counting pennies, he didn’t get concussed by the airbag that had deployed. And I cried because God had allowed that I would see that broad, penny-counting smile again from this side of heaven.

I wept too because there are still good people. As I exited my vehicle, two men came running from different directions to catch me. One sat with me as I wept. The other ran to his home to get me water. He asked if I had kids. I nodded. He said, “Thank God that they weren’t with you. God is watching out for you.” I nodded and wept some more at the fact that he seemed to be reading my mind. I love that in our often frenetically paced world, people still care.

As I laid recuperating in the days that followed, I thought about what had happened. I wondered how my car had been invisible to the person that had accidentally driven into me. I wondered why God had allowed me to be there at that particular moment. Why couldn’t I have passed through that space just a few moments later or earlier?

These are likely questions that St. Ignatius tossed around too as he convalesced after the cannonball hit his leg. Why was he there in that moment? Why wasn’t he just a smidge to the left or to the right? The trajectory of that cannonball changed his life. And it changed my life. And, if you’re reading this, it likely changed your life too. In retrospect, we can see the outcome of the cannonball: sainthood for Ignatius and the founding of Society of Jesus, an order that has affected history and countless lives within that history.

God knows the “big picture,” a picture that is impossible for us to see from our limited perspective.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

—Isaiah 55:8–11

While I can’t begin to imagine the way God reasons, I do know that there is nothing like hardship to put priorities in order and to inspire gratitude wrenched from the gut. There is nothing like hardship to open one’s eyes to all of the gifts God puts right in front of us every single moment: the beautiful people, the wonders of the earth, the gift of time, and countless other gifts.

And so it was with Ignatius. Ignatius suffered the hardship of injury. The result? A life of gratitude. Eyes that saw God in all things. A life surrendered in trust to a God who has good in store for us even when those cannonball moments hit.

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Rebecca Ruiz
Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She has been trained as an Ignatian spiritual director through Fairfield University’s four-year formation program. Rebecca served in refugee resettlement for nearly 15 years and has also worked as an ethnomusicologist, composer, and writer. She and her husband have two sons and live at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. She strives, as St. Ignatius taught, to see God in all things and do “all things for the greater glory of God.”


  1. Hiya thanks for the blog. Wondering if your son had been in the car it would have meant that God wasn’t looking after you?

    • Hi Stephen,
      I believe God is always present. While I wrote this a couple of years ago, my sentiment remains the same: “A life surrendered in trust to a God who has good in store for us even when those cannonball moments hit.”

  2. I read this article with gratitude as I reflect on my own life and trace my cannon ball moments. What a wonderful grace to receive. AMDG

  3. Hi Rebecca
    My friend who lives in NY sent me this link because we have the same name. I live Down Under. It was a blessing that she did as I got to read your “Canonball Moments”. This blessing is a jab in my heart to see God in everything.
    I thank her and I thank you.

  4. Hi Rebecca
    A friend of mine sent me this link because we have the same name. She lives in NY and I live Down Under. Thank you for reminding your readers “to see God in everything…”. It is a “cannonball moment” for me, a jab in my heart.

    • Thank you, Loretta. We really do have much to be thankful for – and I am so grateful to Ignatius for reminding us of this!

  5. Rebecca, thank you for the eloquent “Cannonball” image.
    When my personal Cannonball hit me three years ago I knew it was the beginning of my physical death, but it was also the beginning of my soul’s life, and I thank God for it.

  6. I try to thank God every day for all that He has given to me and my family. In my life of 84 years I have had many close calls but God has always been by my side. I look back and say “wow”!

    • Hi RoseMarie,
      Isn’t it wonderful to look back and see how God has accompanied you over the years? I often look back and say “wow!” too – I look back at so many situations and never could have imagined they would work out the way they did, but in the end, they turn out better than I ever could have planned. God’s ways are great!

  7. Thanks for sharing your story Rebecca. A few years ago, I was involved in a very serious car accident. And I am grateful to have survived, and grateful too for my husband’s life. So many good Samaritans helped, and continue to do so.

    • Hi Pam,
      Thank you for sharing too. I’m glad you and your husband survived and that you found support in the midst of suffering. Peace.

  8. Gratitude makes me happy. When I feel grateful I can see all the blessings that God has given me. The happy and the sad ones. The huge and the small. He really can ser the all picture. I feel grateful and blessed for have found Faith.

    • Hi Fernanda,
      Yes, gratitude definitely helps us to maintain a positive outlook which, in turn, helps us to be happy. I agree!

  9. This is beautiful Rebecca. Thank you for sharing. When I was 20 years old and my brother was 18, we were in a similar accident and ended up with the underside of the car attached to a guard rail which saved us from going over a cliff. My mom called it the “God rail”. I don’t think of it every day, but when I do think about it I marvel at all my life and my brother’s life have been in the past 28 years since that day – the children we had and have been raising, people we have helped in our communities, times we have shared with our families. Nothing is ever certain or guaranteed in this life but we can be grateful to God for each day. Thank you thank you and blessings to you.

    • Hi Terri,
      Thank you for sharing too. How terrified you must have been – and how relieved your mother must have been! In retrospect, it really is amazing to see how each life, each decision, and each event is divinely intertwined!

  10. As I was praying for a friend, the words, “what a gift God gave in the stroke”.
    The words struck me like a cannonball! Suffering through much illness and pain recently had left me bewildered and I was calling a stroke a ‘gift”. My friend’s husband, since the stroke had written a devotion along with Spirit inspired Scripture for her and had shared it on Facebook, blessing many others, including me. God indeed works in mysterious ways, His wonders to behold.

    • Hi Peggy,
      God does work in mysterious ways and I’m not sure we will see how they all fit together until we meet Him some day! Prayers for your healing.

  11. Oh my. I just “happened” to check my inbox…
    My routine checkup turned into a scary diagnosis. Now 2 surgeries, labs and tests, new doctors, and weeks of waiting for the decision about chemo. This isn’t how I wanted to spend my summer.
    Today was already turning into a day of struggles, then you shot a cannonball into cyberspace and it landed here in my soul.
    Yes, I see grace.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Nancy,
      Thank you so much for your note. I’m so glad you found some grace in the midst of your struggles. I’m sorry for your pain though. I will pray for you to feel God’s healing and strengthening embrace during this difficult time. Peace.

  12. Dear Rebecca, this morning in church, I asked God to open my ears and heart to receive his message throughout the day. That little voice in my head told me I MUST open up your email on Cannonball. And so I did. Well Cannonball is a fun term I use whenever I see summer pool pictures. The sheer joy of jumping in to a pool after a long Ohio winter brings to mind memories of younger days yelling “Cannonball” whenever anyone jumped in a pool. If someone posts a pool/ocean/lake picture on Face book I must type “cannonball”. After reading your article I truly felt St. Ignatius with me, cheering me on to be mindful. To be grateful and to look and listen for those moments when God is talking to me through scenery, people…his world. And also, to be mindful that in dark and challenging times he is always with me, supporting me and inviting me to meet him in my pain. What a blessing! My morning mass request was answered in a moving way thanks to your article. I think a Cannonball is in my future.

    • Hi Maureen,
      Thank you for your note. I’m so glad this spoke to you. I agree, when we contemplate St. Ignatius’ teachings, I believe he is with us in spirit tutoring us on how to find God in all things and live with an “attitude of gratitude!”


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