Cannonball of Love

wooden heart on string - photo by Bicanski on Pixnio

I’m sitting in the auditorium at the college during orientation day for my first-year student daughter. The speaker is talking about Jesuit education and the story of St. Ignatius, describing how he was injured by a cannonball and how that event changed his life, forcing him to take a long, loving look at his life choices. The speaker asks us about our own cannonball moments, and my mind goes back to the story of how this daughter I love came into our life.

There were multiple cannonballs, to be honest, but they led me to learn something about love. The first was the devastating diagnosis of infertility, which my wife Sue and I had to process slowly over several years. Each bit of news was like swallowing vinegar: wretched and stomach-wrenching. We had to lean into each other just to keep from falling over. As the reality became more plain, we found ourselves having to let go of dreams and hopes that we had imagined early in our marriage and walk, broken, toward a reality we simply could not see.

Hope seldom arrives with trumpet blasts, but rather it creeps slowly into our consciousness like a shy visitor. I don’t remember when Sue first suggested adoption, but I do recall the feeling of resignation that I had to summon when we started the process. I did not share her desire to adopt, but I desperately wanted her to know that I loved and supported her.

Like Ignatius, we found ourselves having to trust in the mercy of God. I did not yet feel love for the child we would welcome into our home. But I prayed for the grace to learn how to love.

That love has unfolded like massive waves crashing on the beach of my consciousness. We adopted once, then twice, then a third time. With each transformative experience, I have felt my heart grow larger, and I pray each day that I may serve the beautiful purpose God has for each of these children. My heart is not only full—it is fuller than it could have been without those cannonballs.

The wise speaker recalled the adage that we can see the seeds in an apple, but only God sees the apples contained within the seeds. I continue to pray for the grace of my cannonball moments, that God will (in God’s good time) continue to show me the fruits.

Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio.

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Tim Muldoon
Tim Muldoon is the author of a number of books, including The Ignatian Workout and Living Against the Grain, and teaches in the Department of Philosophy at Boston College.


  1. Tim, your and your wife’s experience reflected our own experience, in fact I could change you name for mine and the story will be the same!
    The three year old daughter we adopted is now a 29 year old woman, flourishing as an early child educator, soon hopefully to set up her own family. And yes, by the grace of God, love flourishes. I only remember that she is an adopted daughter when I read articles such as yours!

  2. Thanks Tim for refocusing me on the “Cannon Ball moment” imagery. It helped with my self examine on yesterday’s Good Samaritan Gospel and incidents of the last week or so. Much appreciated. You offer great inspiration and cause even greater self examination.

  3. Thank you so much, Tim and all your colleagues who wrote so honestly and poignantly of their own cannonball moments. I have been moved by them.

    By the way, Tim, I have 2 adopted nieces who now have 2 children each of their own.

  4. Beautiful. I see this happening in my son and daughter in law as they grow into a family having adopted C & B… so beautiful to see love growing in ways that most of us don’t get to experience. They do it with no desire of a faith lens but we see God in all things and celebrate this mystery.

  5. Tim, I always enjoy your writing. This short piece is powerful. There were tears in my eyes by the end of the third paragraph. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Beautiful reflection, Tim. Praying for the grace to learn how to love is itself an example of grace. You’ve inspired me to look for the apples within the seeds of my life as it unfolds today. Thank you.


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