I don’t think one has to be a mystic or even a serious thinker to see the hand of God at work in daily life. God’s presence is ubiquitous and whispering softly to those willing to listen to His voice.
I have two very recent examples of His “intrusion” in my personal life. I was to have dinner with a married couple who had been our very good friends when my Judy was alive. They agreed to pick me up and then drive to the Italian restaurant I had chosen.
Liz called to inform me that Jim was running late and thought we would all be better served if I went the short distance to the restaurant from my house and waited for them. Sounded like a plan so I did just that.
While waiting, I asked a young woman if I could sit next to her since it was the only seat available at the bar. She politely agreed and then we started talking. I estimated her age to be about 35-40 years old and from the looks of her very married. She told me that her family had virtually occupied the bar. I told her that I had been widowed just a few months ago and then I learned that she was a grandmother. I guess my eyes need checking.
There is something I have learned about women, all women since Judy died and that is they are such great nurturers. There is nothing more helpless on earth than a widowed man. It may just be a universal characteristic of being female. But do men ever need nurturing. The hand of God on a larger scale, perhaps!
Just a few weeks ago, I had inadvertently slammed a door into my skull, trying to play a prank on a young mother. I had immediately thought “if I have just killed myself, who am I still standing.”
Of course, all the other men in the house where we were to conduct our annual Cardinal tickets selection rushed to get me ice. Of course not! Men just don’t do that! Thank God for the two women in our consortium, who rushed to help me.
But I digress. Maureen, the woman at the bar and I bonded in a special Platonic moment. It ended when her family’s table was ready, which coincided with my friends arriving. She gave me a great bereavement hug and had even adjusted one of my cuffs for me while we waited. It was a special moment that I will treasure just because two people were able to share a special moment in time that only God could have arranged.
A few nights later my phone rang. No one ever calls me. My phone hardly rings since Judy died. God was on my line again. Well, the next best thing. It was my friend Monsignor James Ramacciotti. He invited me to hear a Jesuit, Father Robert Spitzer, speak at Glennon Seminary where Monsignor was a professor.
I had been interested in the talk but had forgotten about it completely. So I agreed to go. I had to go after my weekly Holy Hour at my parish church so I had to hustle to make the beginning of the talk. Well the auditorium was packed but fortunately I got a front seat where I would be able to hear something. I had been following Father’s career since he was President of Gonzaga University in Spokane. But what I did not know was he was also a renowned physicist.
His ostensive purpose in giving his talk was due to his sincere alarm at the accelerating loss of belief in God among young Catholics, which has risen from 24% to 35%. He attributed this to their failure to discern that there is no essential conflict between science and a belief in a Divine Creator.
He proceeded to name many of the great scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel (Genetics), Roger Bacon (Scientific Method), and Nicolas Steno (Geology), who were religious or even clerical people. Then he started to offer us what could easily be called his brand of evangelical science. When he started explaining the Big Bang, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, I realized that we had come a long way from Aquinas’ Watchmaker.
Despite the highly elevated level of content, I did my best to listen attentively and stared very hard at Father Spitzer. He was a dynamic, highly animated speaker, who tried so hard to move his head side-to-side in an effort to make eye contact. But his eyes struck me as somewhat different. They looked almost closed with just two tiny slits visible. It was almost as if the light was blinding him and he had to squint. Then it dawned on me that Father was blind! That for me was an amazing Christian revelation.
He spoke for 82 straight minutes. When he was finished, there was time for only three questions. The first two, as I had suspected, were very erudite questions that I think had been designed to establish an equal level of discussion with the speaker. The third question was much more practical and concerned the raison d’etat for speaking.
I began by stating: As a victim of 11 years of Jesuit education, it is always refreshing for me to be reminded of my intellectual inferiority. I also had been stuck on Square One. I really wanted to know if he would explain the reasons for this accelerating rate of loss of a belief in God and was there anything we could do about it
This is where Father Spitzer really summoned his deep commitment to the Catholic faith. He could not talk fast or sincere enough to convey how imperative it was for all of us to commit to evangelizing young people so they can understand the errors of their intellectual assumptions. To do this he told us to check out his website, Magis Center, and we could learn all we needed to combat this egregious situation. I plan to treat this more in detail at another time.