When Divine Providence presents itself as ironic, people say, “God sure has a sense of humor.” For instance, several years ago I had been praying for a new van for my growing yet cash-strapped family. Finally, I half-seriously shook my fist at heaven and said, “God, you need to make a 15 passenger van fall from the sky.” Within one hour, the axel on my Chrysler minivan broke, stranding a very pregnant me in the rain with my six children. I laughed towards the clouds, “God, you sure do have a sense of humor!” However, within five days of that Ash Wednesday penance, my mother-in-law wired us enough cash to purchase a new van! The Holy Spirit must have whispered our plight to her, for we never had shared our predicament.
Similar stories abound in Christian’s lives. For instance, St Catherine of Sienna, who loved to wander the hills of Sienna, was called to be a hermit for a time. St Therese of the Child Jesus, who wanted to be a foreign missionary, became a cloistered nun and is the Patron Saint of Foreign Missions. Two of my favorite paradoxes are God’s will for Saints Peter and Paul. Only God could name Simon, "Rock", and transform Saul into "Paul the Evangelist". God has chosen irony as His will for me, again. On the very day my essay, "Running the Rosary" , was published, I suffered a serious ankle injury which left me in a cast and dependent on crutches for weeks. Such a paradox exists, I discerned, because God must want a postscript to that essay written! Most certainly, I will write as He wills.
Quite apart from my habit, of praying while running, I prayed the Rosary this morning while sitting
still, my leg propped up, and fingering amber Rosary beads. “Peace. Be still”, Our Lady infused into my soul, as I listened to the chirp of Momma Hummingbird sipping nectar from the hibiscus tree, which brightens the veranda. In contemplating Jesus’ crowning with thorns, my mind wandered back to St Paul’s words about running the race and being crowned with the victor’s crown. He didn’t literally mean one must run. For, while running, how can one appreciate a hawk circling and gliding on unseen airflows above one’s praying head? The ancients recognized the presence of God in such gifts of nature. St Paul’s words apply even to those who never feel the snap of a branch on their face while persevering on a rugged cross-country trail.
For some reason God’s will for me this summer is to contemplate him in the stillness I find hard to achieve when I am of sound body. Since my injury enforces a driving hiatus, I must sit and read to my “little ones” from whom I can become distracted during my hectic days of bustling around the house and town. Weeks of healing have given me the gift of listening to tiny voices doing “talk-overs” for Polly Pockets. Their pleasure at play reminds me that my Heavenly Father, too, delights in my smallest endeavors, like when I “crutch over” to inspect sun-kissed blueberry bushes.
Relying on chauffeurs has meant I no longer attend mass daily. My longing for Jesus in the Eucharist inspires a deeper appreciation of, and thanksgiving for, those times I can receive him. Several times, because of my chauffeur’s schedule, I have arrived quite early for mass. Therefore, I’ve been able to pray the Rosary before, and receive graces from, the Blessed Sacrament. Once I attended mass at the driver’s convenience and stumbled upon a mass in which the Anointing of the Sick was offered! Divine Providence, while having a sense of humor, never mocks the Beloved.
My hot-pink cast reminds me of the gift of a sound body. I’m already anticipating my joy and ensuing thanksgiving when I can freely run again. However, the injury forces me to contemplate that we are called to be detached from everything but God in this life. No pleasure, even a seemingly benign one, like running, can begin to approximate the Trinitarian relationship that God wills for us. Therefore, he slowly detaches those whom he loves from their very selves. Eventually, our soul will separate from our body for a time. Those who cling to life in this world grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope (1Thess 4:16) as they lose anything of worldly importance to them such as health, relationships, or hobbies. God uses these mini-deaths to prepare us for eternal life with Him in our glorified bodies.
For His Divine purpose, I Am deigned that I would neither run nor walk this summer. Like Our Lady of Mt Carmel, in quiet and stillness I will ponder within what this can mean. Was I becoming vain and self-satisfied through my achievements? Was my prayer superficial while on the trail? Or, was He entirely pleased with me and in His mercy rewarded me with rest? Most fervently I will, as St Catherine of Genoa wrote, give “myself wholly into His hands, that He might strip me of all that was not pleasing to His most penetrating eyes…Pure Love wishes to be alone.” He lavished this gift of mortification on me so I am “stripped of every other love and entirely possessed by the pure love of God”. (St Catherine of Genoa). The theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love are the gifts that the Holy Spirit infused into my soul at my baptism and through worthy reception of the Sacraments, to draw me away from myself and unite me to the Trinity during this apparent trial. As St John of the Cross taught: Faith will purify my intellect so that I can rest in Divine’s wisdom, Hope will purify my memory and allow me to anticipate the true good my loving Father has prepared for me, Love will purify my will so that I align it with God’s will for me. Satan will not snatch the Victor’s Crown that awaits me as I run the race God has prepared for me.
Despite the human sadness at my pain and disability, I chuckle at God’s sense of humor while He lovingly draws me closer to Himself. I can say, “This stinks!” while knowing the fragrance I inhale is Heaven Scent perfume. Now, there’s a paradox!