November 23, 2013 by lucieromarin
It’s raining. It has been raining for days, and I’ve been caught in more than one downpour. (I was drenched yesterday, and arrived for Mass squelching in my allegedly impenetrable boots.) Some days ago, in between leaping over puddles and pulling my scarf over my head, I was stuck by the thought that we were told, quite explicitly, that the last Deluge was, in fact, really and truly the last.
For the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter whether you see the story of Noah’s Ark as history or fiction or something in between, as long as you see it as an instruction to think a certain way about how God plans to interact with mankind. And, while the promise was that the whole world would never again be destroyed by flood, I realised that it meant something more than a promise about a particular form of natural disaster. It was a message about whether or not God intended, for the rest of time, to use sweeping solutions to world problems, and the answer to the question was that He wouldn’t.
See, the flood-story isn’t about God being vindictive; It’s about that experience of looking around, saying, “Wow, stuff has gone really wrong and people are awful,” and then washing away the Awful and starting again. (And there’s no point pretending that God is the villain in the story, when half the time we wish He’d do the same thing again.) I mean, I’ll grant you that often we don’t actually pray for people to be destroyed, but we do ask for things like ‘world peace’, or ‘an end to all war’ or ‘no more famine’ – all of which are broad, sweeping request for a broad, sweeping solutions to problems that are actually made out of millions of individual choices for evil rather than good.
Okay, whether or not God is mean for saying ‘No’ to this kind of prayer is really the topic of another post; the point is that we’ve already been told He’s going to refuse it. Evil is not going to be swept away by any kind of deluge – whether that’s a deluge of water, or government policy, or universal conversion, or everyone waking up and realising they prefer chant to guitars, or anything else. What, then, is He going to choose?
Alas! Not being a saint, I’d never understood those moments in the lives of the saints when they talked about the importance of little things. I’d never even been particularly inspired by those moments in which Our Lord Himself appears to the saints and reminds them about the importance of the little things. You know – St Therese talks about picking up a pin for love, and how the slow death by pin-stabs can save souls; Our Lord says to Sister Josefa Menendez that a smile, a word restrained, a difficult act of obedience can draw down many graces upon souls. St Faustina prayed for the Holy Souls with her crochet stitches. And I always used to think that this was just a way for people with narrow channels of action to feel better about their lives, but I was wrong. It’s Divine policy.
Once you get used to it, it’s peculiarly liberating. It’s like learning to detach from imaginary relationships and hopeless crushes on men who either don’t exist at all (Mr Darcy) or who you don’t actually really know (that guy who never talks to you and who clearly prefers pretty girls) and learning to see the real boy next door for who he really is. It means that the struggles that accompany rebuilding your life (if you’re recovering from burnout and exhaustion and not having a vocation) take on new meaning – you see how they look to God, and you realise how He values them.
It also gives new meaning to some of the more sci-fi elements of the lives of the saints. Remember how St Francis had the birds listening to his preaching and tamed Brother Wolf, how St Anthony commanded the fish, how St Scholastica made it storm with her prayers, how there were no ruined crops while St John Vianney served in Ars, how it snowed in summer for St Therese? And remember how, while each of these saints cared about problems of the world and the saving of souls, all of them chose personal reform and commitment to prayer as their way of life? This power over nature isn’t just an odd superpower that proves they’re holy. It’s the restoration of the original authority that Adam had over the world, and that is achieved close union with the One who walked on water, calmed the storm, multiplied loaves and fish, worked as a carpenter, used an apparently obscure and ignominious death to pay the price for mankind, and had only a handful of His enemies at the moment of Resurrection that proved He was God.
Well, today is Saturday, and it’s raining. If my pious thoughts do nothing for you, maybe you’ll enjoy this little rainy-Saturday piece, which I can’t help liking: