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PRAYER SHAWLS: Everyday reminders of God’s love, compassion and mercy.

PRAYER SHAWLS: Everyday reminders of God’s love, compassion and mercy.

by Susanna Bertelsen

While busy with fall closet cleaning at Loyola, I came across three beautifully knit prayer shawls!  What a pleasant surprise!  Those three shawls immediately raised up in me powerful memories of my own experiences with prayer shawls…warm reminders of how God loves us when we are suffering in mind, body, or spirit.

During my Parish Nurse tenure, I always was touched by the surprise, joy and gratitude on the faces of people to whom I had the honor of delivering one of our Prayer Shawls, made by women from our parish’s Prayer Shawl Ministry.  Then when I was going through treatment myself for a life-threatening illness, it was to my own surprise, joy and gratitude that a church friend brought me a beautiful Prayer Shawl to cover me during those long treatment sessions.  I experienced first hand how the Prayer Shawl served to put me in touch with God’s love as I thought about the hours of patient knitting and prayerful concern that the knitter offered as she knit this beautiful shawl.  Under the warmth of my shawl, I could relax and reflect, in conversation with God to whom I had prayed in my complete vulnerability.   Often I would recall Psalm139:13 – “Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.”  Which led me to think about God’s presence surrounding me: protecting, healing, offering hope during that major life event, through life-giving medication and competent, caring health professionals and others.  The shawl served as an “everyday” connection to God’s love through others.

Now, many years later, I often bring a shawl with me to use during retreats, and my heart sings again with joy and gratitude for the inner gift of God’s life-giving presence. 

I remember the shawl’s knitter, with prayerful appreciation, who begins with prayer and patiently continues throughout the creation of the shawl until, when complete, she offers a final blessing for the well-being of the recipient, similar to the following by Janet Bristow (2000), a founder of Prayer Shawl Ministries:

 “May God’s grace be upon this shawl…

Warming, comforting, enfolding and embracing.

May this shawl be a safe haven…a sacred place of security and well-being

sustaining and embracing in good times

as well as difficult ones.

May the one who receives this shawl

be cradled in hope, kept in joy,

graced in peace and wrapped in Love.”

            If you know someone who might appreciate one of our Prayer Shawls, please contact your Loyola Spiritual Director.  Remember how God loves you….

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