In light of the hurricane that we just experienced, and the difficulties that came along with it, I thought I would post on one implication of considering our divine filiation (our becoming children of God) with which the first paragraph of the Catechism opened. First, as Fr. Federico Suarez explains, absolutely everything
“that happens to us is foreseen by God, and is ordained to his glory and to the salvation of man. If what happens to us is good, God wants it for us. If it is bad, He does not want it for us, but allows it to happen because He respects man’s freedom and the order of nature; in such unlikely circumstances it is nonetheless in God’s power to obtain good and advantage for the soul—even bringing it out of evil itself.”1
This is not a simple “god-of-the-gaps,” but rather the providential workings of our loving Father in heaven acting on earth. As Fr. Francis Fernandez explains:
“Our sense of divine filiation should lead us to discover that we are in the hands of a Father who knows the past, the present and the future. He has ordered everything for our good, even though his plans may not coincide with our plans of the moment….No one could do a better job of watching out for us: God never makes mistakes.”2
Life will involve suffering, but, as St. Paul informs us, “We know that in everything God works for the good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And earlier, St. Paul explains the central role of suffering in the life of Christians: being Christian does not excempt one from suffering, but rather requires it. If the Son of God, Jesus, suffered, so too the children of God in Christ shall suffer:
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:15-17).
During the fallout after the hurricane, I was praying about all of these things, and then, when I was re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia with my children, I came across this poignant passage which speaks for itself on this topic. It is with this lengthy—but well-worth reading—passage that I will end this post:
“‘I do think,’ said Shasta, ‘that I must be the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world. Everything goes right for everyone except me. Those Narnian lords and ladies got safe away from Tashbaan; I was left behind. Aravis and Bree and Hwin are all as snug as anything with that old Hermit; of course I was the one who was sent on. King Lune and his people must have got safely into the castle and shut the gates long before Rabadash arrived, but I get left out.’ And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks. What put a stop to all this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls. What he could hear was breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very large scale, and Shasta got the impression that it was a very large creature. And he had come to notice this breathing so gradually that he had really no idea how long it had been there. It was a horrible shock. It darted into his mind that he had heard long ago that there were giants in these Northern countries. He bit his lip in terror. But now that he really had something to cry about, he stopped crying. The Thing (unless it was a Person) went on beside him so very quietly that Shasta began to hope he had only imagined it. But just as he was becoming quite sure of it, there suddenly came a deep, rich sigh out of the darkness beside him. That couldn’t be imagination! Anyway, he had felt the hot breath of that sigh on his chilly left hand. If the horse had been any good—or if he had known how to get any good out of the horse—he would have risked everything on a break away and a wild gallop. But he knew he couldn’t make that horse gallop. So he went on at a walking pace and the unseen companion walked and breathed beside him. At last he could bear it no longer. ‘Who are you?’ he said, scarcely above a whisper.
‘One who has waited long for you to speak,’ said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep.
‘Are you—are you a giant?’ asked Shasta.
‘You might call me a giant,’ said the Large Voice. ‘But I am not like the creatures you call giants.’
‘I can’t see you at all,’ said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, ‘You’re not—not something dead, are you? Oh, please—please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world?’ Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. ‘There,’ it said, ‘that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.’ Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.
‘I do not call you unfortunate,’ said the Large Voice.
‘Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?’ said Shasta.
‘There was only one lion,’ said the Voice.
‘What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and—’
‘There was only one: but he was swift of foot.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I was the lion.’ And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. ‘I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.’
‘Then it was you who wounded Aravis?’
‘It was I.’
‘But what for?’
‘Child,’ said the Voice, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.’3
- Federico Suarez, The Afterlife (Princeton: Scepter, 1997), p. 158. [↩]
- Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God: Meditations for Each Day of the Year Volume Five: Ordinary Time: Weeks 24-34 (Princeton: Scepter, 2000), p. 343. [↩]
- From C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy in C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: HarperCollins, 2001 ), pp. 280-281. [↩]