By Alyssa Bormes

A zillion times we packed the 1972 harvest gold, faux wood paneled Buick Estate Wagon—that’s fancy talk for station wagon—and took to the road. There were ten of us: my parents and eight kids, and sometimes a dog as well.


As you can imagine, there were constant complaints of, “Steve is on my side,” or “Jerry is looking at me,” or “Paul is teasing me.” Sometimes Mom would scold the boys, but other times she would assure me that I would be just fine. Then, somehow we made it to grandma’s house, or to the Black Hills, or to a cousin’s wedding unscathed. The Buick might have been cramped, but love always managed to squeeze in as well.


Well, I’ve given up on my 70s bell-bottom pants, and ponytails, but from time to time I still do decorate with orange and avocado green, and from time to time, I utter a similar complaint to the old days. “Mom, Jesus is hugging me too tight!” (Of course I know it should be “tightly,” but sometimes you just can’t get a quality complaint out when you want to be grammatically correct.) But He is! He is hugging too tight!


This past year has been a meeting with pain, and that’s saying a lot for me. Pain is my everyday friend, and has been for decades. This year has taken it to a new level, a surgery, followed by a car accident, followed by waiting—and waiting in pain. Except that I know that all of the pain is a gift.


When my surgeon told me of needing a new shoulder, it was with an apology in his eyes. The third and fourth surgeries had seemingly fixed everything…until the car accident. Three cars piling onto mine was more than one old gal’s shoulder could bear.


When he told me of the surgery, I responded, “Well, I’m sure we can use this to win souls.” With surprise, he exclaimed, “Nobody says that but you!” No, I don’t suppose they do. We chatted about it again the other day, how I have been and will continue to offer the pain for conversions.


The conversions are already happening in small ways. My students have become very aware of when I need assistance; their young hearts are turning toward service. My friends allow me my weakness. On the days when I feel I am sinking, they have an opportunity to comfort me. And I have had the opportunity to abandon my pride; I really cannot do it all myself. And this is where Jesus enters.


In His tight hug, Jesus seems to lovingly whisper, “Will you offer this to me? Will you speak of me? Will you serve me in this pain?”


In that old Buick, we just had to figure out how to get along in the midst of a lot of people being super close together. It was training for life. The mystical body is spiritually in a big Buick, and when we complain, “Mom, Jesus is hugging me too tight,” Mary turns around, and with a knowing smile, assures, “Let your Brother hug you; you’ll be just fine.”

About the Author:

Alyssa Bormes is an educator, author, speaker, and retreat leader. She currently teaches at the Chesterton Academy in Edina, Minnesota, writes for the Catholic Spirit, and the W.I.N.E blog, is the host of a weekly show,Christian Witnesses in the Church,” on Radio Maria US, and is the author of The Catechism of Hockey. You can find her at