We in the West have lost our supernatural vision. What was once self-evident to the Christians of previous ages has become darkened and hidden from us. The connection between the spiritual and material worlds that was a part of the daily lives of the people of the Middle Ages and earlier periods of Church history have given way to the super rationalism of the post-Enlightenment era of our present time.
In order to get with the times and seem relevant, we as the Church have often jettisoned the heart of our faith in favor of the head. We discard anything that is seen as supernaturalist as superstitious and we attempt to convince our contemporaries that we no longer are a people who sees spiritual workings in everything. Not only is this unjust and uncharitable towards our brothers and sisters in Christ down through the ages, it is a lie.
Doing so has led to a Church that is increasingly disconnected from the divine in our daily lives. We have relegated our worship to only on Sundays, or in this pandemic, to a computer or television screen. Our church buildings lack objective beauty and transcendence and have been reduced to bland meaningless utilitarianism. We seldom seek to raise our eyes to heaven.
As Christian disciples this has bled into our daily living. We do not seek to find God in the details of our daily lives. This is not how we are meant to live. St. John Paul II in his brilliant encyclical Fides et Ratio: On the Relationships Between Faith and Reason, states:
For the People of God, therefore, history becomes a path to be followed to the end, so that by the unceasing action of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) the contents of revealed truth may find their full expression. This is the teaching of the Constitution Dei Verbum when it states that “as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly progresses towards the fullness of divine truth, until the words of God reach their complete fulfilment in her”. History therefore becomes the arena where we see what God does for humanity. God comes to us in the things we know best and can verify most easily, the things of our everyday life, apart from which we cannot understand ourselves.
Our days are not meant to be seen as a meaningless pattern. God is working in time right now. We are connected to the people around us through our shared nature and through our communion with the Most Holy Trinity. God works through us and through those people. Unfortunately, Catholics tend to view one another as a sea of faceless strangers rather than as brothers and sisters in Christ, which is a bond much deeper than we can fathom or imagine.
It is partly this loss of supernatural vision, which has led to our ever increasing irrelevance in Western culture. We cannot offer something radically different to the culture if we ourselves simply want to fit in and get along with those around us. We have lost the radicality of the Gospel message and how it is meant to transform every facet of our lives and help us to see in a completely new way. We are meant to see with the eyes of Christ Crucified.
I ran into lived supernatural vision recently. It struck me because Christ has been working a great deal in my spiritual life to help me see with the eyes of faith despite my incessant doubts, which are so endemic to the Western Church due to our overemphasis on rationalism and materialism—both scientific and consumer forms—that it has led us to question everything and trust no one, not even God.
I went to Vespers and Adoration at a parish across town where I met the new parochial vicar. He looked at me and said: “You have come here this evening for a reason.” He was, unsurprisingly, a priest from Africa, although I don’t know which country. Africa is a continent where the Faith is exploding even as it has eclipsed here in the West.
In that moment, I understood tangibly how we are supposed to live our lives in supernatural faith. This priest saw every encounter with someone as a part of God’s plan. This is not something the Church has stopped teaching; rather, it is a spiritual reality we have chosen to ignore or abandon. We have forgotten that God primarily works through our relationships with other people. The Holy Spirit often is trying to guide us through our brothers and sisters in Christ if we are open to His promptings.
How often throughout our days do we experience other people or situations as a nuisance, annoyance, or burden? From mothers and fathers in relation to their children to priests in dealing with their flocks, all of us have forgotten in our busyness and often faithless days that God works in every moment of our lives down to the smallest of details.
So much of our lives is teeming with meaning and charged with spiritual energy, but we fail to see it. Our loss of supernatural vision renders us blind to the wondrous tapestry God seeks to weave in each one of our lives. A tapestry that is also interwoven with the people around us who God seeks to unite as one body. The Church’s teachings on communion are not sentimental. They are a reflection of the deep realities of our interconnectedness with one another and how we are meant to respond to God.
Each person we meet throughout our day is there for a reason. It may seem inconsequential, but in the next life we will be utterly amazed at how the smallest of interactions was a part of God’s larger plan. We will learn that certain days of our lives have more spiritual meaning and that God was working at a higher level on those days, especially in relation to the liturgical calendar. We will see the significance of dates and times. Something the Jews understand, which is why they hold the symbolism of numbers and names in such high regard.
I often tell my daughter when we are running late and we seem to be hitting every obstacle possible, whether all red lights or a train, that God very well may be keeping us safe or we may need to meet someone along the way in God’s perfect time. I saw this in action a few months ago as I was leaving daily Mass.
I was driving through our downtown area when a pedestrian unexpectedly walked out in front of me so I had to stop. I then proceeded towards the next light which had turned green. As I was nearing the intersection, a van blew through the intersection on a red light traveling at high speed. Had the pedestrian not walked out in front of me, the van would have plowed right into me, possibly killing me and seriously injured my daughter who was seated in the back seat on the other side of the car. God lifted the veil and let me see His working in my life in a tangible way. It served as a reminder that God is constantly working in our lives even if we aren’t aware of it.
There are countless times on a normal day when I’ve been asked to deliver a message or do something for someone else and then I will run into that person. This is often the Holy Spirit confirming what He wants done. If we have aligned our vision to Christ’s supernatural vision, then we will see the connections and be able to cooperate fully with the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If we languish in doubt or discard the supernatural from our daily lives in favor of a more rationalist way of viewing things then we will be unable to surrender to the Holy Spirit. We will be limited in the way we live our lives as Christian disciples because we will essentially go about our days blind.
In an overly scientific age that has abandoned the gift of faith, we must reclaim a life of supernatural faith. It is not superstitious to see the workings of God in our daily lives. Doing so leads us to see beyond what is in front of us into the very heart of the Most Holy Trinity. Supernatural vision allows us to cooperate and surrender to His promptings, so He can work His divine plan through us. We are meant to be conduits of His Divine Love. We cannot answer that call if we have abandoned the heart of our faith that leads us to see with the eyes of God in favor of a purely rationalist understanding. It’s time to reclaim our supernatural vision.