New Year, Unexpected Wonders, and Tremendous Trifles

“The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.” -G. K. Chesterton

The New Year is always a time of introspection for me, both intentionally and unintentionally. I try to look back on the previous year, see where things went right, and perhaps where they could have gone a bit differently, or even could have used a tremendous overhaul. Throughout the process, I also discover where I did O.K. for myself (that’s God’s grace rather, not me), and also where I fell completely short of who I am supposed to be, who God wants me to be, and fell flat on my face (ah yes, there’s me).Then I try to evaluate my goals for the coming year, what I am looking for in life, and finally, but most importantly, where I need to let God penetrate in my heart in order to more fully conform myself to His will (and hopefully avoid falling flat on my face again, but we all know that won’t happen; praise God for confession). In other words, I try to find Chesterton’s “wonder” in my life, a wonder that I could not quite put into words until I read the essay from which the above quote originates (praise God for a friend who is better read than I am).

But where does the “wonder” that Chesterton speaks of come in? In other words, what’s the Hobbit getting at???

Careful and the greatest wonders will pass in the blink of an eye… An image of Earth taken from Apollo 8. Source: NASA / Bill Anders [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I think sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the introspection and minutiae, so intent on trying to put everything together, we miss the fact that He, the creator of the cosmos and master of the universe, is right in front of us. There’s Chesterton’s wonder. We miss the wonder in so many ways… In the Eucharist when we receive Him out of habit, or when we visit Him in adoration and let our minds get bogged down by the minutiae of our lives. In the homeless person we try to avoid eye contact with in order to get to our destination faster. In the friend who is suffering a loss, when we keep talking about our own problems, our own tribulations.

I was talking with a good friend today, someone whom I have not had a chance to really chat with in a very long time. As we sat outside in Capitol Park, our conversation ranged the gamut of a variety of subjects, but at one point we got to talking about our vocations. Both of us have had, shall we say, a bit of a journey when it comes to vocational discernment. This person mentioned that in the end, it was selfishness that prevented us from seeing God’s plan, and I think that is true. We want this or that, but what does God want? Is our will aligned to His? Selfishness and pride keeps one from discovering the beauty and wonder of His grace, and how it will unfold for that individual person. For my friend and I, I think it wasn’t until we allowed, and I mean really allowed, just a bit of that wonder to enter into our lives that we began to see where God truly wanted us.

So yes, I think we miss the wonders because we are selfish. We miss the wonders because of our pride. Sure, we want to become great, and think we have it all together, but as Chesterton alludes to in the above referenced essay, in seeking out the greatness in our lives we forget that we need to be small, and in that smallness, the “Little Way” of St. Therese, we in fact discover true wonder, the presence of God in all that we encounter.

On a side note, I think Chesterton and St. Therese would be (and perhaps are!) very good friends. Anyway, back to my droning…

In the end, it leads back to Chesterton’s quite tremendous trifle: if we become too introspective, too big, and too wrapped up in trying to figure out where everything is going, we are being selfish and not allowing God to take control, and thereby allowing the wonders to pass by, whether these wonders be people, places, events, or just quiet moments with Him. We become so big to see the mountains, we miss the tiny flower that points us in the right direction. We need to be small (hey, I already have a head start!). We become stagnant and fail to take action. In our “bigness” (yes, that’s a word; I double-checked) we may become invulnerable and believe that everything is as it should be, sure, but it is not an invulnerability to be sought after or cherished, because this kind on invulnerability stifles wonder, and even love:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” -C.S. Lewis

So for this new year, let’s examine, let’s make our resolutions, which can be fine and good, but then let’s move. Let’s not become too big for ourselves that we lose sight of God’s wonder, which is probably sitting right next to us. Take action, and see the world. See the wonder, rather than getting wrapped up in a coffin of selfishness and pride. After all, a world without wonder is a boring world indeed.


Wormwood on Time

screwtape“You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do.You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about, on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say…’I now see that I spent most my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’” -C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Replace the “dead fire” with the glow of a computer screen, and Wormwood has described today’s situation with astute clarity. How often do we while away the time we have, of which we do not even know the final amount, engaging in really pointless activities? You see, in today’s world we have so many modern tools that have made communication so much easier, but these tools can be misused! Do we sit staring at Facebook for hours really for no reason at all, or is it used to keep up with friends and family, to connect to others, as it is meant to be used? OK, I understand that in the case of Facebook, the true purpose of it may in fact be generating advertising revenue for Zuckerberg and Company, but that’s a whole different matter entirely.

I think you get my point, however. Do we use our time wisely? Do we use it serving God and others, or ourselves? At the end of the day do we simply look back and realize that our it was spent in a sort of haze? I realize that we must take time for ourselves, but in the spirit of the great Benedictine ideal, everything in moderation! All that said, one of my favorite quotes is from St. Irenaeus of Lyon: “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.” Are we fully alive, or do we let idle periods and activities take up our time, talent, and treasure?

Yes, we must be judicious with our time. We need to be responsible so that we do not lose track of this precious commodity that we cannot get back. This includes some planning. In this planning, however, there must be room for flexibility and an openness for God’s grace to work in unknown ways in our lives. In other words, we need to try our best to organize our time well, but also stay open to the adventure that is life.

While I wont make this a “New Years Resolution” since I personally think that these “resolutions” are often discarded quickly, I will try to make it a goal to utilize the precious gift of my time in a more worthwhile manner so that I may try to give glory to Him above all else. Will I fall? Of course I will. I need to at least reach for this goal though, and rely on His grace. We all need to strive towards Him.

As the New Year dawns, how will you use your time?

Now excuse me while I go check Facebook for the 2,374,956th time today…

Pax et bonum.

h/t to Faith, Hope, and Love

The Problem of Evil

In time I will post a proper introduction, either here or I have posted a proper introduction on the About page, but now there are far more important matters to deal with…

All of you have no doubt heard about and felt the effects of the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary. In the wake of that horrible day, there is discussion about gun control and mental health issues. The victims, those brave adults and innocent children, are being remembered. But how can God allow something like this to happen?

I don’t know. There. I said it. I simply do not know. Things like this are mysteries, with a capital “M”. The mystery of iniquity is a reality which humanity has been struggling with since our race came into existence. While I do not know the answer to these questions, I do know that our Lord is a loving God. We may not understand the world, but He truly is in control. I think that it is said particularly well by C. S. Lewis, in his book A Case for Christianity:

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.

And so there we have it: free will, our greatest gift, can also be our greatest burden, and in some cases, curse. How do we utilize our free will? Love of self, or love of others and God? Do we see it as the gift that it is, or do we abuse it, tossing it away, like so many other forgotten gifts?

In these final days leading to the Nativity of the One that brings peace to all, let us remember all those victims in our prayers. May they rest in peace in the eternal light of the Father. May the families have consolation, and eventually, come to peace and see God in all of this, a difficult task to be sure. Let us pray for all of those that struggle with mental illness, as well as their care-takers. Finally, and I realize that some people may not appreciate this sentiment, but let us also pray for the soul of the attacker, who was created by God just like the rest of us.

We may not have answers. But we do have Him, and that’s the best possible thing we can have.

Pax et bonum.