Hearing a Mystery

headphones 2There are things in life we are able to love and connect with, even though we do not entirely understand them. For example: other people, and music.

I draw out the music example especially in honour of St. Patrick’s Day. I love this Saint, and I love this day. I lived and worked in Ireland after my first year of university, and I will never forget it. I arrived at much of my sense of purpose during that time. I figured out, to a great extent, what kind of man I would like to be. Grand stuff.

It was a good and beautiful time. What made it even more beautiful was the soundtrack of Irish music I had on rotation back then. One of my favourite artists was Liam Ó Maonlaí of Hothouse Flowers fame. I connected with and was moved by his trditional Irish Gaelic renditions in particular.

Sadhbh Ni Bhruinneallaigh is an example of an Irish song that Liam does splendidly. Frankly though, I didn’t learn the lyrics until a good seven years after first hearing it. If I think about why I waited, I suppose the biggest factor was the fear of losing the mystery. What if the lyrics didn’t match the things I had imagined when I listened to the song time after time?

To some degree I feared studying theology in depth for the same kind of reason. I have had a relationship with God for as long as I can remember. What happens if I learn something about God that contradicts what I long-believed to be true about Him? Could that be possible? Could I, to take the pressing example, take Lent too seriously this year and find myself questioning the bedrock of my faith?

As I sit with those thoughts, my primary response is that yes, taking Lent seriously could change a person and the way they view the world, and possibly their faith. But this doesn’t need to be a negative thing. The particular ways I am trying to take Lent more seriously/intentionally this year – especially with the processing channel this blog offers – only convinces me further of how much more aware one can become during Lent, especially of one’s utter reliance on God. That may not seem like a big change at first glance, but I personally believe that when we prioritize our attentiveness to God and the gifts he gives us in everyday life, we are indeed changed by it. That has been experience thus far, and I have to say that I like it.

But as for the fear of too deeply uncovering the mystery of God, I am less prone to worrying about that these days. Theology may advance as much as it pleases; the God I have personally known has been singing a song in my heart for thirty years, and should He will it, I would be pleased to know His wonderously mysterious voice for thirty more.

Stuart Wilson-Smith, CSP

Fr. Stuart Wilson-Smith, CSP, is a Paulist priest. Raised in New Brunswick, Canada, Fr. Stu is now enjoying his first assignment ministering to the students of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. When he is not celebrating the Sacraments or wandering the campus, Fr. Stu loves to write, make music, and fish.