And Nothing Would Again be Casual and Small

We were lingering over the lasagna, enjoying a casual dinner after the women’s conference this weekend.

Our beloved Bishop Olmsted, sitting to my right, was listening attentively to one of the volunteers describe her devotion to the Carmelite saints.  She shared enthusiastically about her affection for St. Teresa of Avila.  She paused thoughtfully.  “I also love St. Thérèse,” she added.

Bishop Olmsted smiled.  “Is that why you are wearing flower earrings?”  he asked, referring to the roses dangling from her ears—and to the saint affectionately known as the “Little Flower.”

“No,” she said.  “I just love flowers.  All flowers.  I’ve always loved them.”

I leaned in.  “But that,” I said, “is no coincidence.”

Several heads nodded, including the fatherly one next to me.

“I’ve come to understand that there are no small things in life.  Everything is infused with meaning, is part of our story, and points to something beyond itself,” I said.  “That you are drawn to flowers is connected to your love of St. Thérèse.”

I thought of the Sisters of Life, several of whom had been at the conference that day, radiant and joyful in their blue and white habits.  Around their necks, each sister wears a medal engraved with the words, “and nothing would again be casual or small.”

To those seated around us, I shared that the phrase was part of the last bit of a poem about the Annunciation by Fr. John Duffy, a Redemptorist priest. The poem was a favorite of Cardinal John O’Connor, the founder of the Sisters of Life.

It refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit, overshadowing Our Lady in response to her ‘yes.’  Mary becomes pregnant with the Son of God, and with His arrival, the entire world suddenly and forever becomes pregnant with meaning.

Never again would she awake

And find herself the buoyant Galilean lass,

But into her dissolving dreams would break

A hovering consciousness too terrible to pass —

A new awareness in her body when she stirred,

A sense of Light within her virgin gloom:

She was the Mother of the wandering Word,

Little and terrifying in her laboring womb.

And nothing would again be casual and small,

But everything with light invested, overspilled

With terror and divinity, the dawn, the first bird’s call, 

The silhouetted pitcher waiting to be filled.

(From “I Sing of a Maiden” by Fr. John Duffy, CSsR, emphasis mine)

When we are baptized into Christ, everything in life becomes “light invested.” All things—all things—work together for those who love the Lord. (Rom 8:28)

Gradually, painfully, we realize that our sufferings, deep and wrenching, are an integral part of our story—after all, we must be ‘crucified with Christ’ (Gal 2:20) in order for Him to live in us.  But then we see, too, that the little things of life are also very important, for nothing has been left untouched in our human experience and everything has been given a role to play in the reconciling of the world—all of creation and every human heart—to God Himself.

The chance meeting, the delay that is providential, the splash of sunshine on the windowsill, the feminine bloom on a woman’s ear.  All of it “overspilled with terror and divinity.”

As a writer and editor, I know that a well-crafted story does not include any extemporaneous information, description, dialogue, or characters.  If it doesn’t move the story or book along, it needs to go.  Instead, an excellent writer finds the perfect word.  The most revealing dialogue.  The pivotal scene or character.  And it all serves the story.

We have a perfect Author writing our story.  That means that every detail is carefully chosen to advance his plot.  He does not fill pages just to fill pages, and He wastes nothing.

And so we approach with a sense of reverence every encounter and every person—including the smallest and most hidden—and every seemingly ‘random’ thing about us and our lives.

These are the bit and pieces that are not to be tossed aside but will be strung together and sung about someday, on the threads that God used to weave us together in our mother’s wombs.

Our deepening life of faith is a slow awakening.  We slowly awaken as Mary did, the day after the Annunciation, and realize with both gravity and buoyancy that Someone lives within us and that nothing—nothing—again can ever be “casual and small.”


Read “I Sing of a Maiden” in its entirety here.




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