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By Eric A. Clayton

There is a drawer in my parent’s house that has not been opened in a very long time. It’s in the room where my daughters sleep when we visit. Inevitably, stuffed animals and piles of clothing and suitcases block the drawer whenever we’re around, and there’s never really been a reason to open it anyway.

Until this past Sunday.

“There are Pokémon cards in there,” my brother said.

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “I’d know if there were any more Pokémon cards in this house.” I’d assessed what Pokémon paraphernalia was left over from childhood long ago. I knew every card we still possessed. And I mourned the holographic Charizard that had been lost to the sands of time.

My brother shrugged, shook his head. “I think you’re wrong.”

It was my turn to shrug. “We’ll see.”

We pushed aside the shelves that blocked the drawer, threw the girls’ clothes on the bed. The drawer slid open effortlessly.

“The Game Boy Advance!” I exclaimed. “And — well, what do you know…”

My brother rolled his eyes. “I told you.”

From out of that drawer, we pulled hundreds of Pokémon cards. And I’m not talking about just your run-of-the-mill Pidgeys and Oddishes. I mean, there were more than a dozen holographic Dark Gyaradoses. We found one Mewtwo after another. And there, buried in a pile of cards bound together by long-decayed rubber bands, was that holographic Charizard.

“Dude,” I said.

“I told you I didn’t lose it,” my brother replied.

The afternoon took a turn. We scrapped plans to take the girls to the park — it was pretty cold, after all — and my brother and I instead went through those old cards one by one. We sat in the living room examining them, sorting them, trying to recall where we’d gotten each one, which friend had traded their cards for ours, how to pronounce the names of some of the less common Pokémon creatures. We researched card value and card rarity and laughed at what we learned and what we remembered and what we’d inevitably forgotten.

The real hero of the day was our mother, who — in her infinite wisdom — had not given or thrown those aging cards away.

The Catholic tradition is one that is full of stuff: relics and holy cards, medals and tiny statues of saints. For as much as I want to embrace simplicity, as much as I want a house that has fewer and fewer tchotchkes, I also love the stuff-ness of the Catholic faith. It’s not so much about filling shelves with nonsense; rather, we fill our homes with stories, with tangible objects that lift our gaze and our minds toward lives lived long before our own. These are stories of grace and challenge from which we might learn — or, at least, gain some comfort in knowing that we don’t muddle through on our own.

And, I think, the holy stuff of our faith lives can bring us joy: that little statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague that reminds us of our grandmother or that guardian angel holy card that we got from our godparent or that old rosary that’s been in our family for generations. Things that connect us, that speak to us of stories and struggle and solace.

Sometimes, too, these stories aren’t sitting on our shelves but rather crammed in the back of a closet or forgotten in a hidden drawer, and suddenly, suddenly, they leap out at us, they derail our days and insist — insist — that we sit down and bear witness to them, to the memories they hold and the relationships woven therein. And I think that’s okay. I think God is there laughing, sharing in that sudden joy, that careful reminiscing.

Because it’s not everyday you find a holographic Charizard card. That’s a very special day indeed.

This reflection is part of the award-winning weekly email series, “Now Discern This.” If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

a person smiling for the cameraEric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith and My Life with the Jedi: The Spirituality of Star Wars, an exploration of Star Wars through the lens of Ignatian spirituality (Loyola Press). He is the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America MagazineNational Catholic ReporterU.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, Small Wonders Magazine and more.  Sign up for his Substack “Story Scraps” here. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat.