The Gift of Astonishment

I can never hide my Jesuit upbringing or the strong influence of Ignatian Spirituality in my life. It is simply that – a part of me, who I am, and what I believe in. During a past Pentecost, which I cheekily refer to as the Translators’ Feast Day, but I allow myself this transgression because I am a translator myself, I stumbled across an excerpt from Pope Francis’ book Walking with Jesus wherein he refers to the Gift of Astonishment.

surprise“A fundamental element of Pentecost is astonishment. Our God is a God of astonishment; this we know. No one expected anything more from the disciples: after Jesus’ death they were a small, insignificant group of defeated orphans of their Master. There occurred instead an unexpected event that astounded: the people were astonished because each of them heard the disciples speaking in their own tongues, telling of the great works of God (cf. Acts 2:6–7, 11).” (Walking with Jesus, by Pope Francis, source – Ignatian  

The message is embracing the capacity to astound others and allow ourselves to be astonished by others and even by our own selves in our daily life. It is the capacity to be humble enough to put our pride aside and take a good look at what we can learn from those who are younger, especially the children. We are constantly admonished by social norms not to be childish and develop into mature adults, and I agree entirely with this and try every day to live up to it. On the other hand, the greater challenge is to aspire to reach a state of grace that is child-like – open to what is new, learn anew with enthusiasm, not be governed by ego and materialism, but driven by love and the exquisite desire to share your heart with others. Children look at the world with fresh and innocent eyes, uncorrupted by ambition and greed, seeking only kindness and love.

We spend so much time, money and effort into raising our children to become responsible adults, that we forget to look at what we should be learning from our own children. When was the last time you were astonished by a sunrise? By the beauty of a cloud formation? By the kindness of one who shares what little they have and ask for nothing in return? By the ability of others to play in the sand or walk barefoot in the rain?

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
–        St. Ignatius of Loyola

The gift of astonishment is part and parcel of these gifts, and a call to rise up to the challenge to be astonished by the simple things around us in order to enrich our spirits. I have been writing about slowing down and appreciating the simple things in life for the past month, and the capacity to be astonished in a positive., fruitful and creative manner becomes more and more difficult and fleeting as we get caught up in work. Pain, grief, frustration, confusion, emptiness, and general sadness all cloud our ability to be astonished by the simplest things such as a bumblebee or even a cat falling asleep over a water bowl. We are easily stunned, shocked, or overwhelmed, but to allow ourselves to be astounded by the kindness and generosity, or even selflessness of others is a gift.

(NB: an earlier version of this entry was published on

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