The miraculous isn't segregated into church activities or the occasional spiritual retreat. It's everywhere.
My fondest memory of playing T-ball was the orange soda after the game.
The game itself, of course, had its charms. I enjoyed sliding down the bench as we rotated our turns at the bat – every player got to bat every inning because in T-ball there are virtually no outs. I anticipated my turn coming closer with every teammate who scooted down.
Finally, I got to put on the helmet and take my practice swings. I enjoyed playing on a real dirt field with real bases, just like my favorite St. Louis Cardinal players. Once, I even caught a fly ball and got an out against the other team. I looked to the sidelines to be sure my grandma saw the play and was suitably impressed.
Above all, though, I loved the orange soda — well, that and the sprint to the playground for a post-game spin on the merry-go-round. Those sweltering summer evenings playing ball in the thick Missouri humidity are burned into my memory, an experience just this side of Heaven.
For a child, every experience is large and fresh, every day magical, a chance to wander into the woods to dam up the creek and fish out the crawdads buried in the mud, organize a game of street hockey, or wander up to the baseball card shop with your allowance.
There seems to be a hazy line that delineates where childhood ends and adulthood begins. It has to do with how we view our everyday experiences.
G.K. Chesterton points it out in his autobiography as he remembers his own childhood, writing, “It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.” It’s a subtle but important distinction.
Catholic adults, by definition, believe in miracles. We believe, for instance, in the Resurrection of Our Lord and the seven Sacraments. This worldview leads us, as Chesterton says, to view the world as a place in which miracles can and do happen. To a child, however, life isn’t just full of miracles. Life is a miracle. Orange soda is a miracle. The merry-go-round is a miracle. The crawdad is a miracle.
I understand that the adult distinction between the ordinary and extraordinary is necessary, but I really do think the children have a good point.
Coming up in a few days is the feast of St. Irenaeus, who says, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Pondering this statement has me considering what it means to live a full life, one in which I reach my potential and through which the glory of God shines not only in extraordinary moments but even in ordinary ones. It’s a childlike attitude that unifies all of our experiences under the category of miracle.
Every day, the sun rises, and it’s amazing. Every morning I celebrate Mass. As a Catholic priest, I’m firmly committed to the idea that it’s a miracle. Think about that, every day beginning with a miracle! After the Mass, I might have a meeting or some office work, maybe emails that need to be answered. I get through it, knowing that later that evening we have a holy hour, another miracle to look forward to at the end of the day.
But what about the time in between? It, too, is colored by the miraculous. Filled to the brim with the creative fire, poetry, and glory of God.
It’s up to us to recognize the glory all around us, under our feet, over our heads, in the faces that pass by in the aisle of the supermarket. Belief in God isn’t escapist, as if we careen from miracle to miracle desperately waiting the day when we can finally be set free from our doomed mortal bodies and run away to Heaven. The miraculous isn’t segregated into church activities or the occasional spiritual retreat. Your entire life is sacred. Your actions have significance – parenting, friendship, gardening, writing, doing good work at your job. God shines through it all.
In another spot in his autobiography, Chesterton talks about how he believes Heaven will be full of fields of dandelions. What we consider weeds to be eradicated in fact have their own special beauty and value. Dandelions are a miracle. Again, I think back to when I was a child. I was obsessed with dandelions. I treated each one as a treasure. I thought their yellow flowers were exquisitely beautiful, worthy of gifting to my mother and, later, their fuzzy seeds rightly deserved to float into the wind like fairy dust. A dandelion seed is a little piece of magic that creates new life in whatever patch of dirt it happens to land on.
Maybe later today, I’ll drink an orange soda and blow on a dandelion. Whatever you do, do it with God. Live to the fullest – it’s all to His glory.