by Eric Clayton

“Daddy, we have a Sofia the First cup!” My three-year-old was brimming with excitement. “Did you know?!” The statement was half-accusation, half-hyperventilation.

The 59-cent purple plastic cup in question has become akin to the Holy Grail over the course of the last week. My daughter has stuffed it full of toys, carried it to bed and even snatched it from the sink. How dare we try to wash it!

One of the more random gifts we received for our wedding many years ago was a collection of plastic cups featuring an array of Disney characters. It was a joke from college friends – this was years before we had any kids – but we kept them anyway. Occasionally, we had reason to use them when our dishwasher was full.

But when our eldest daughter began to immerse herself in Disney stories, we began to learn – or, relearn – the names of the faces on the cups. We have a sprawling collection. Doc McStuffins, Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sofia the First were hiding in our cabinets all along. 

I love witnessing my daughter encounter new characters and new stories – even if the characters and stories have been around for years. They’re fresh to her. The discovery that she has been drinking from a cup that features her newest favorite princess and the subsequent frenzy of excitement always injects a shot of joy into our household.

What this recurring event makes me reflect on, though, is something deeper, something I imagine we all experience. If we reflect on ourselves, I bet we each have a number of plastic princess cups stacked high in the cabinets of our lives. Hidden stories buried in the soil of our very selves, insights and skillsets and desires that are there, but not yet seen. Seeds biding time. 

As we go about the daily work of life, we encounter new people, new experiences. Our way of doing things, our perspective is challenged and changes. The Holy Spirit nudges us in a new direction; our vocation becomes clearer, ushering in a flood of new understanding, excitement or curiosity.  

Aspects of our lives and ourselves suddenly take on new meaning and greater significance. And we’re shocked! Because this stuff of our lives has been hiding in plain sight. It’s been there all along. But now, we have eyes – we have reason – to see it. We’ve read a new chapter of God’s story and are ready to act on our discoveries. 

This, too, is vocation work. This is a reminder that the vocation of our lives is constantly deepening. As the Ignatian Year reminds us, we really are called to see all things new in Christ. And this is where we are invited to trust the Holy Spirit to reveal to us new facets of ourselves – but at the appropriate time. 

That “Sofia the First” cup has been sitting in our cabinet for nearly seven years. But it was only last week that it suddenly meant something.

In God’s peace,

Eric Clayton is the senior communications manager at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. He joined the team in 2019 and produces content that shares the wide-ranging impact and potential of Ignatian spirituality. He also guest hosts AMDG: A Jesuit Podcast.

He previously worked at Catholic Relief Services, most recently as the Campaign Content Manager, overseeing the development of prayer and advocacy resources aimed at promoting Catholic social teaching to a US-based audience. He has also managed social media channels for Maryknoll Lay Missioners, developed and directed retreats for the Sisters of Bon Secours and is an adjunct professor in the Mass Communication department at Towson University. His writing has appeared in Busted Halo, Amendo, Sojourners, Grotto Network and Give Us This Day, and he is the author of the forthcoming book Ignatian Storytelling, published by Loyola Press.

He has a BA in creative writing and international studies from Fairfield University and an MA in international media from American University. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife and two daughters.