My name is Dominic and I am a crier. This is not something I am ashamed of. In fact quite the opposite; it’s something I rejoice in and have done so for some time. In recent years it has become something I give thanks to God for. It is also something which I now begin to ask questions of: why do I cry so much? How does this impact on my life? What importance does this play in my life? To be quite honest the conclusion I have drawn is that my tears play a vital role in my life and I am more thankful than ever for them. However the question that lingers is whether or not my leaky eyes are nothing more than my rather sensitive nature – a nature which I am certain of – or if they are in fact a gift from God otherwise known as the Gift of Tears.
The Gift of Tears is not something we read about in the Bible, although Jesus himself was not exempt from this particular element of the human condition; the briefest verse found in the entire Bible contains two brief words “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). We do not find mention of this Gift in the Catechism. Rather we have experience of this Gift passed down through our history. Pope Francis has spoken in the past as tears being a charism (gift) which is oft times attributed to the lives of the Saints. We see this gift present in the lives of Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Mary Magdalene and many others.
What is the Gift of Tears though? Perhaps the best place to find explicit mention to this gift is in the diaries of Saint Ignatius of Loyola who speaks at length of times in his day in which he was moved to tears by the love he felt for God and felt such great consolation in these times. He received this gift while celebrating the Mass; to be held in a moment of such divine intimacy. Perhaps the crucial bit here is not so much the tears which Saint Ignatius wept but rather the consolation he experienced in that moment which would draw him ever closer to his union with the living Christ.
As with all gifts from God, through the Holy Spirit, the Gift of Tears does not equate its recipient with holiness. The one who receives this gift is no holier than thou. Neither are they any closer to God than those of us who are simply sensitive! Rather, God simply endows them with this gift as an act of consolation through which they may be better attuned to witness the presence of God in their life, or to assist in a difficult decision which God has presented them with. By all accounts it is not a once off event for many people who have received this gift. The Gift of Tears is nothing more and nothing less than another example of God’s invitation to intimacy. Truly a beautiful and humbling gift.
Where does this fit in my life I hear you ask? Well it’s a bit of a tricky one for me because I know I am a sensitive sort. How am I to distinguish between the moments in my life in which I am crying normal tears of emotion and those moments of grace? To help me with this I shall outline two occasions I recall crying profoundly; one shall be a natural emotional response and the other shall be one in which I believe God touched my life with his Gift of Tears.
In January 2004 my paternal grandmother passed away. At the age of sixteen this was the first occasion in which I was fully aware that death has touched my life. All through the days of waking my Granny O’Reilly I do not recall shedding one single solitary tear. Finally the morning of the funeral came round. I remember sitting on the stairs in my granny’s house with some cousins while the prayers were being said. All of them crying. We were each brought in to say our last goodbye. As I kissed my grandmother on her forehead I was suddenly – and rather painfully – aware of the fact that I would not set eyes on her again in this life. Boom. Tears began to flow…and did not stop – literally did not stop – until well after the burial that day. Did I feel consoled? Well yes I did, but not in any kind of particularly supernatural way. I felt no closer to God. Though the importance of that day still resonates with me. These tears were not God’s gift to me – though they certainly were abundant!
I contrast that with an event which took place just last year. I was travelling home after attending Méabh Carlin and Hannah McCauley (The Goretti Girls) launch of their music album I Will Wait. Méabh and Hannah are two phenomenal young women and I am honoured to call them friends. It was a remarkably prayerful and spiritually enriched evening of music. My mindset that evening was a tad stormy though; I was encountering all kinds of questions surrounding where I fit in God’s world and questioning his presence in my life. I was travelling home listening to the album and as I was approximately half way home the final track began; Here I Am. As I heard those beautiful words being sung “With your grace, I can see your face and I know I’m not alone” the tears streamed down my face. I wasn’t sobbing, I wasn’t gulping or weeping but rather was crying real tears. I began praying so earnestly I couldn’t contain it! I want to know Him better and be his witness. I wanted to receive His forgiveness. This was a gift. I believe wholeheartedly that while yes God is working through these two friends of mine, but in that moment I also received the Gift of Tears. Since that evening in times of struggle or uncertainty I put that album on again and again and remember how that moment of intimacy with the living and loving Christ felt.
I believe this magnificent gift is one which we need a great deal more of in our world today. We only have to look around us to witness the many acts of barbarism we exact on each other. While yes indeed in our present epoch we need people of extreme sensitivity who will be compassionate and empathic, but equally we need people who will allow their tears to transform their hearts and in doing so transform the world. I invite you to pray, ask for the Gift of Tears and be drawn ever closer to a deeper more profound union with our Lord. Or as Méabh and Hannah so beautifully sing; “Help me Jesus to spread your fragrance everywhere I go. Amen.”