God Answers Back

Spirituality is a deeply personal aspect of how we live and for this reason it’s not something I’m inclined to bring up in ordinary conversation. For what I’m about to relate, though, it may be necessary as a preface.

To begin with, I am a practicing Catholic of the Roman persuasion and a traditional one at that. As such, the center of my spiritual life is the Holy Eucharist. I try as best as I can to go to Mass every day, a commitment made easier by the fact that my places of work or residence have always been walking distance to a church. All else flows from that: my participation in the other sacraments, my recitation of the rosary, my daily Gospel reading and reflection, and moments of mental prayer. Some days, even weeks at a stretch, it may be a struggle, but these are always what I return to.

My relationship with God is a personal one in the sense that I relate to Him as a person. It is also fairly unemotional, that is, absent any highs and lows of ecstasy and angst. Instead I look for signs of God’s presence throughout the day, usually in the discovery of some previously hidden aspect of what is around me. I like to think that it is a contemplative spirituality.

This spirituality is in line with my personality and with my work. Nowadays I manage a team of software developers and frequently I have to dive into some programming as well. Project management, at least my approach to it, is about seeing patterns, causal relationships, and divergent possibilities within the context of a bigger end, and moving resources accordingly. Likewise, with programming — advancing step by step towards some goal within a limited palette of logical expressions. The commonality between my work and my spirituality is a delight in discovery of details within a larger framework and the agency to act accordingly.

I could relate this further to my work in literature and literary criticism, or my interests in gaming, artificial intelligence, and languages — and I might, in future installments. For now I do want to show that (1) I am fairly grounded and (2) I am smarter than the average bear (I hope you got that reference.) When I relate what seems to be a mystical experience it is with utmost seriousness and with due consideration of all the angles.

As I said, my relationship with God is a personal one, and being so, reproach is entirely within its scope. And I have been feeling reproachful of God in recent weeks, perhaps even the better part of the past two years. With all that has been happening — the scandals in the Church, the abandonment of moral principles — it feels that God has been asleep. As Jobian as that may be, it does not preclude continued friendship amidst the quest for answers. And so I go on with the norms of piety.

And yet, sometimes it does get to be too much. Last Saturday, September 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I went to noontime Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. In a rare cri de couer, in my prayer after Communion, I asked precisely that. God, are you asleep? Please, give me an answer! Give me a sign! And almost at once, I retracted, because it doesn’t go well to tempt God. And yet, there it was, I had already released the sentiment.

The rest of the afternoon went as usual. Lunch, a bit of shopping here and there, but I was mindful of any sign that might appear. And it so happened, I was at Toy Kingdom, speaking with a saleslady about a kick scooter, when the earth shook.

The earthquake registered 6.3 and struck around three in the afternoon (even the time has some significance, if you’re religious) off the coast of Caraga. Where I was, the displays shook and the woman I was speaking with ejaculated spontaneously: “Jesus!” The tremor lasted almost a minute. Even when it passed, the saleslady was still trembling and I had to ask her if she was all right.

In the midst of that, and in the time that followed, I felt no fear but only delight. As the earthquake rumbled, I let out a chuckle. I had asked for a sign and in a most unexpected but in a most definite way, God had answered.