Catholic Values Columnist
Our era badly wants for wonders. We often misread these times as a scientific age, where we seek out answers and put an end to mysteries. If you look at it for more than two seconds, it’s clear that that reading is outdated. The scientific revolution, the enlightenment — they’re givens now.
Western culture has accepted that there are no wonders; the zeal of scientists and rationalists
has made sure of that. There is an answer to every question in our pockets, or if not, some
expert or wannabe can fill you in. Wonders are dead — so now we really want them. We search
farther and farther afield for them:
“What do you want to do in the future?”
“Oh, travel …”
If we can’t go far, we play with video games and drugs and sex and philosophy and physics to
satiate our need to see, feel, hear and touch things outside of our experience.
We want to feel small; astronomers and physicists love pointing this out when discussing the cosmos. We want to be blown away.
Practicing Catholics are not immune. We have that itch for material experiences, but also for
It’s not particular to our age; the Jews asked for signs and wonders. When we explore the depths of our faith and find therein treasures as if from the Lonely Mountain, we cannot help but fall to our knees and wonder.
We revel in discovering truth; you read one thing written by St. Thomas or JPII and are blown into the stratosphere. You hear that one talk and feel as if you’ve been set aflame. You turn that one word, one phrase, over and over again in your mind, you stare in awe at it, you try to wrap your mind around it …
And then you go back to normal. Whatever that revelation was, it was so far beyond you, so
precious to you that you have, inadvertently, held it at a distance. In all that pious bewilderment,
you missed the point: it’s supposed to change your life.
Oh, by the way, when I said “you,” I meant “I.”
Take angelology. The Rev. Chad Ripperger, a no-nonsense exorcist, explains that upon your guardian angel’s creation, God showed you to them: your life, your times, your struggles. The angel that became your guardian said yes, from before time itself. I remember hearing that for the first time and getting the chills.
Then I realized — likely my guardian angel giving me a nudge — that if I didn’t get over my
wonder real fast I would sit there in awe for a bit before moving on to live my life unchanged.
We need wonders to change us, but, paradoxically, the necessary change is a startlingly practical
experience. “Inviting my guardian angel into my life” is not an abstract spiritual resolution. It is
the weirdly real, Heavenly proclamation that I ought to invite in my angel while I wash the dishes or leave my room for class. Only then can the wonder be sustained: when it has entered your life, and your life becomes wondrous as a result.
Had Bilbo gone to the Lonely Mountain, taken a look at those hills of gold and returned to Bag-End, he’d have had a great time and little else. But Bilbo returned in the strange garb of a faraway land with chests of treasure.
With that Dwarvish gold, his quiet life in the Shire was never the same again. He was a better
Hobbit for it. A vital part of metanoia is bringing the wonders home.