Sacred Souvenirs

“Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.” Isaiah 60:4-5

I didn’t expect to cry as soon as I pulled into the city limits. I was excited about showing my kids places that were so important to me: to witness their awe at seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, to get emotional seeing the house my mom grew up in, and to remember the fun shopping excursions at the now-shuttered Nordstroms location. I did think I might sniffle at my grandparent’s gravesites.  But the large white block letters on the hill announcing we were entering “South San Francisco” was what stopped my words mid-sentence and triggered the cascade of tears. This utilitarian marker on the road had been the first sign that the long drive from our home in Southern California was nearing an end. Soon I would be running up the red brick stairs of my grandparent’s house. But today instead of heralding a homecoming, it announced the emptiness awaiting me.

Each of us is a magi, following the deepest desire of our hearts towards uncertainty. Like the stars the wise men analyzed, the road signs we pass tell us facts about longitude and latitude. They give us clues about the distance between two points and how long the journey will take us. Neither the stars nor the GPS can tell us if we will find what we are looking for when we arrive. 

None of these external markers can tell us what emotions and memories the journey forward will trigger. Our hands carry our past hurts and regrets. Our hearts are filled with a longing for joy and peace. Do we have the courage to forge a new road when the one we have been traveling becomes closed off? Each step forward fuels our confidence that God would not lead us into darkness. 

What is the most precious gift we can offer the Christ-child this Epiphany? Perhaps that gift is not gold, frankincense or myrrh, but rather a heart open to receive His love. 

Published by jencoito

Jen Coito is a California native with diverse experience in parish, academic, and national ministry settings. She has a Masters in Pastoral Theology from Loyola Marymount University. She worked for the California Province of Jesuits for seven years promoting Christian Life Community on university campuses and other diverse ethnic settings. Jen has collaborated on the creation of formation materials, discernment tools, and small group processes that are being used around the country in Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, and English. In 2013, Jen and Jesuit priest Fr. Tri Dinh co-founded Christus Ministries out of a desire to engage local young adults and form young-adult friendly parishes. Jen works for the Sisters of Notre Dame in California as the Associate Director of Mission Advancement. Jen, Jason, and their three children live in Southern California. You can read more of Jen's writings at

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