Joy Is the Surest Sign

An Ignatian Prayer Adventure online retreat

This is a guest post by Michelle Francl-Donnay for Week Eight of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

I came home early in the morning, the noise of my engine rippling the sleepy stillness of the neighborhood, the green leaves arching over the street like a gate to another world. The brick wall along the driveway glowed warmly in the sunlight of mid-September as I pulled the car up, and my two sons and spouse spilled out the door at the sound of the car door. “Mom, you aren’t dead!” exulted my then five-year-old. I can still see the expression of utter delight and all-encompassing joy on his face as he hurled himself into my arms. Joy is the surest sign of the presence of God.

We sat with our backs against the warm brick, my little ones snuggled up close, and talked of the week I had been away, marooned in California in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11th—or in the mind of my youngest—confused by snippets of overheard adult conversations, surreptitious snatches of the news, and my uncharacteristic unwillingness to say when I would be home—stranded in heaven with a cell phone. And then we went inside and had breakfast.

The grace Ignatius urges us to pray for in the final movement of his prayer adventure is to share in Christ’s joy in the Resurrection. We pray to be invited to taste not just the joy of those who recognized Jesus, but Christ’s own joy in sharing the news of redemption. I can’t make these contemplations without thinking of the look on my child’s face as he came out the door to see me, and my own joy in knowing that he was again safely anchored by my presence.

I think of Peter’s joy, throwing himself headlong out of a boat into the water, heedless of wet clothes and brimming nets—for joy, for God. I think of Jesus, desiring to be close to his companions. “Come, have breakfast,” he says. And to Peter, “Walk with me!” Overwhelming joy and the presence of God.

This is the deep joy that not only abides within us, but propels us forward, out of these days of prayer and into Easter. I love Gerard Manley Hopkins’ use of Easter as a verb: “let him easter in us.” I leave these days of prayer with a deep longing to let Christ easter in me, to continue to be at work within me, to burn so brightly within me, that I, too, might be alight. I pray to remain Christ’s, that his joy may be in me, and my joy complete.

Amen. Alleluia!


  1. All of your posts here, as almost all of your posts *anywhere*, are gorgeous. And that joy is the surest sign – indeed, I agree! The image of your son encountering you moves me beyond words. Thank you!

  2. Michelle, this post brought many things to mind. When I read about your reunion with your son, I thought of how I worry about something until I finally “hurl” myself into the arms of God and sit with God for a while and feel the joy and peace that only comes from knowing that we do rest in the arms of the Creator. I must never forget that our Lord enjoys our companionship and it is important to spend time together, not only for my sake but for God’s sake as well.
    Thanks very much for this post.

    • Happy Easter, Lynda! I love the line from Luke, echoed in the Liturgy of the Hours on Holy Thursday morning, “I have longed to eat this meal with you…” God desires us.


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