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Do You See Miracles?

October 15, AD 2013 7 Comments

If you ask my daughters what a miracle is the ten-year-old will say, “Babies!” The eight-year-old will tell you about how Sarah, the wife of Abraham, gave birth to Isaac in her old age, which is actually part of a bigger miracle. My twenty-four-year-old will tell you the entire Old Testament tells the miracle of salvation history. My five- and seven-year-olds will tell you that Christ is the greatest miracle of all. To be a Christian is, obviously, to believe in miracles.

But do you see miracles yourself, in your own life? According to St. Thomas Aquinas a miracle in the strict sense is “something done outside the order of the entire created universe.” Certainly you could argue that a baby is not a miracle in the strict sense, but my daughter would disagree. She remembers the day we first saw her baby brother’s embryonic heart beating on the ultrasound machine (I remember her scream). Two babies died in miscarriage before him, two died after him. To us, this little boy is absolutely a gift outside the order of the universe.

Plus, there are those times when circumstances align in an order that simply defies coincidence. I remember the night my oldest son and I prayed at the Adoration Chapel, and came to a decision about a school for him to attend. We asked for a sign to know if it was the right choice. Outside we both saw a misty rainbow encircling the full moon. We nodded, we laughed, and he graduated from that parochial school six years later. Surely there was a physical explanation, but it was miraculous nonetheless.

People sometimes assume that miracles are less miraculous if they are rooted in the physical realm, but aren’t they all? God could have redeemed us in any way conceivable, but He chose for Christ to live the life of a baby, a boy, and then a man. Christ’s miracles were rooted in nature too; he used fish, bread, water, and mud.

Sometimes I miss miracles because I don’t pay attention to things right in front of me, things that remind me I am part of something greater. I look for them though. In fact, just as I was finishing this essay, the mailman brought a package to our door. Inside it was an unexpected gift from a friend, a small book entitled Miracles and Physics. Coincidence? Nope, a miracle, and let me tell you something — when you see things that way, life suddenly makes much more sense.

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Hello, and thank you for reading. My name is Stacy Trasancos. I am a wife, mother of seven, and joyful convert to Catholicism. I write from my tiny office in a 100-year-old restored Adirondack mountain lodge that overlooks a small spring-fed lake. Read more about me here. Find me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or contact me by email. God bless you!
  • Jeff_McLeod

    As long as you brought probability into play, I’ll take it a step further.

    Probability is a difficult concept to grasp. There are several schools of thought in statistics, from frequentists (objective probability) to subjectivists (the bayesians, though not all of them).

    If I win the lottery, one could say that the overwhelming odds were against it. That’s at the level of the individual, the person.

    But from the lottery’s perspective, it is certain that some one will win the lottery. The probability nears 1.0 that after so many draws of the numbers, some specific person will win the big prize.

    So is it a miracle if I win, or random chance?

    It was certain that some one will win. It is a matter of random chance which person wins it.

    This framework seems to me to separate those who deny miracles and those who recognize them.

    In Aquinas’ day, the concept of probability wasn’t worked out very well. It’s possible he meant that a miracle is something that defies the natural order, all other things being equal. So my winning the lottery would defy the natural order because a typical person would NOT win the lottery, yet I did. The question, then is what became of the unlikely event.

    If my winning the lottery resulted in something that defied the natural order — say I built a seminary or a hospital somewhere — then one might get a sense that the money was being directed in a very unlikely place.

    In contrast, if a typical person won the lottery and did what the typical person would do with the money — which for most means molding themselves into a centerfold for midlife crisis magazine with the cars and the clothes and the gaudy crap — then the windfall is no miracle, it is just life as we know it. Degrading, dumb, and selfish.

    This is off the top of my head but I suspect an interesting conversation could be stirred up around it.

    • John Darrouzet

      Jeff, you make good contributions here.

      In my own reading I have come to realize that “chance” or “random” explanations are essentially referring to what is unknown, if not unknowable. [ See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chance_(philosophy) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random ]

      When my friend was hit in her car at an intersection, she was stunned to realize that she only had her father’s “chance” or “life’s a gamble” perspectives to fall back on to explain why this happened. She was angry at such unsatisfying explanations. This led to an interesting discussion about searching for other explanations.

      I recommended to her at the time, and to you now, to take a look at the coin toss scene in the movie “No Country for Old Men”. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Country_for_Old_Men_(film) ].

      There is an excellent commentary on Youtube that describes how even an encounter with evil, personified in the movie by a stone-cold killer, can reveal the importance of making decisions, in this case a choice of heads or tails on the surface, but much deeper when you read between the lines. [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeCL4IUHiHg ]

      While the killer directs his life on the basis of “chance” or “luck,” we are invited to pull back from this encounter and see that that approach is a fallacious one. Putting one’s faith in “chance” or “randomness” is putting one’s faith in the unknown, if not unknowable. I urged my friend to seize the moment and try to learn more about the unknown.

      As St. Paul argued before the Greeks, our God is the unknown and remains so until you see him in such “chance” events, such seemingly “random” events. My friend won’t go there for a variety of reasons.

      The woman driver who hit my friend pushed through the intersection as if no one else would be in her way. Unfortunately my friend did not see her own self in the other. She suffered physical and emotional pain, but was not ready to process the event in a spiritual way to see how God was showing her that life itself is not a gamble and hers is not in particular.

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  • John Darrouzet

    To answer your question “Do you see miracles?” I say “Yes!” Here’s a link to my personal story: http://catholicstand.com/do-you-see-miracles-our-ruby-story/ Thanks for the question!

    • Jeff_McLeod

      Your personal story seems to have resonated with thousands. Good job. As I mentioned in a comment over at your article, Mr. Darrouzet has set the bar high for husbands. And well you should have.

  • David Peters

    Yes I see miracles. Whether they occur in good times or in difficult times they can be a way of God bringing encouragement to us. Life not only makes sense, but life becomes beautiful with miracles!
    God bless.