Why isn’t Lucia being canonised along with her cousins?
The cute answer is: Our Lady is to blame.
I have endless tolerance for boring sermons, weird sermons, silly sermons, scary sermons, tiresome sermons, corny sermons, uninspired sermons, irrelevant sermons, rambling sermons, goofy sermons, and sermons that make me wonder which will come first, the end of the homily or sweet, sweet death.
But I don’t complain! Most of the time. I do, however, have a short list of things I could do without, which I offer out of sheer, self-giving generosity, as your respectful daughter in the Faith.
Image: By BPL (originally posted to Flickr as Preaching) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
In the Gospels, she says, “Do whatever He tells you.” In Medjugorje, she snickers and says, “You do you.”
Forty-seven thousand times.
To a casual onlooker, it really does seem like Catholics believe that if you die with a scapular, God has to let you into heaven; that if you stick a St. Christopher medal to your dashboard, you can drive like a maniac and walk away unscathed; that if you pray on a rosary blessed by an especially good Pope, or sneak a relic of your favorite saint underneath some sinner’s mattress, then whatever you wish will come true.
This is not what Catholics believe. We do not believe in magic, and we do not believe that God is bound to perform for us like a genie in a bottle.
Not only does the Catholic Church “do science,” but she allows us a heck of a lot of latitude in our personal devotions. Myself, I have steered clear of incorruptibles as any proof of anything besides the fact that the world is weird, history is messy, and lots of people are different from me.
Pro-lifers routinely refer to “the miracle of life,” a phrase which isn’t really technically accurate. A miracle is, strictly theologically speaking, an event which wouldn’t happen ordinarily in nature. It’s something which only happens because of the special intervention of God.
If you’re going to look at sheer numbers, it’s hard to imagine anything less miraculous, or more ordinary and natural than the conception of a child. It’s something that’s happened billions of times, often without anyone meaning or wanting it to happen — often without anyone evenrealizing that it’s happened. I’ve seen pro-choice people roll their eyes and patiently explain, “Yes, babies are cute, but they’re hardly a miracle, any more than it’s a miracle every time a weed grows. It’s simple biology; happens all the time.”
Which always makes me think, “Yes? Is it somehow not amazing when a weed grows?” Maybe it’s just because I’m such a terrible gardener, but every time I put a seed in the ground, sweat and fret for those ten days of germination, give up hope, keep watering anyway, and then go out one evening to discover that SOMETHING IS COMING UP, it blows my mind. Absolutely blows my mind. I drag my husband out to see: “Look! Do you see, right there? You can even see where the soil is actually being pushed away, because the little leaves are coming up! Look how hard it’s trying! I know I planted a seed there, but HOW IS THIS HAPPENING? You can even see the little bean shell stuck to it! LOOK!”
I get nearly the same thrill when I weed, to be honest. Yesterday there was nothing but bare dirt surrounding my tomato plant; today, there are six kinds of green all fighting their way through out of nothingness into the light, all hungry, thirsty, ready to join the battle with beetles and downpours and sun and chill. Some of them are feathery, some fibrous, some creep and cling to the ground with flat, sticky leaves, some are just simple, forthright grass . . . and everybody wants a piece of life. I don’t shed any tears when I rip them out and toss them away, but I really do admire them. Or at least, I admire the system. Yesterday, there was something very close to nothing, and today, there’s something big enough to grab with my whole hand. Tomorrow, if I leave it be, there will be something with a stem thick enough to snap, full of juice and intricate hairs. Everything is ordered toward life, toward making more and more and more of itself, to being part of the plan.
And it happens over and over and over again.
When we’re talking about grass and weeds or even exquisite hot house flowers, only truly crazy people worry or marvel over every last bit of plant life: it’s not merely common, it’s insignificant. And, while we certainly cherish and delight in our own babies and the babies of people we love, no human heart is big enough to cherish and delight in the individual births of all the billions of babies conceived. There are just too many of them. It’s just too common. It happens literally all the time, every second of every day.
But here’s the thing: it’s just that very commonness, that everyday-ness of human life that is a gift in itself.
Think of other things that repeat and repeat. I’m not the first one to point out that repetition is sometimes a gift in itself, and not a stumbling block to overcome. Do you get tired of hearing your spouse say, “I love you?” Do you look at those beloved lips forming those words and think, “Oh, that old thing again. Why can’t I have something new for a change?” Would you want to have a marriage where the words “I love you” were an extraordinary, unexpected event, only brought about by special grace? No, it’s the very repetition that makes it cherished, delightful — extraordinary, even, just because it is so ordinary.
So, when a baby is conceived, maybe it’s not a miracle — maybe it’s something better than that. It’s a sign that God has given us a world which, even in its natural, fallen state, is completely stuffed with wonders. He is not stingy; He doesn’t withhold his goodness. This is the kind of marriage that mankind has with God: He says “I love you” every day, every minute of every day.
My cup overflows.
This post originally ran at the National Catholic Register in 2012.
It’s official! Another hurdle crossed before canonization.
The Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, Bishop of Peoria and President of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, received word today that the seven-member theological commission who advise the Congregation of the Causes of Saints at the Vatican unanimously agreed that a reported miracle should be attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The case involved a stillborn baby born in September 2010. For over an hour the child demonstrated no signs of life as medical professionals attempted every possible life saving procedure, while the child’s parents and loved ones began immediately to seek the intercession of Fulton Sheen. After 61 minutes the baby was restored to full life and over three years later demonstrates a full recovery.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Bonnie Engstrom, the mother of that resurrected baby who grew into this happy, healthy guy:
Next up: the case is reviewed by cardinals and bishops, and then by Pope Francs himself. Come onnnn, Fulton Sheen! Congratulatons, Engstrom family!