Wonder and Gratitude: Sanctifying the Mundane
“May we never lose our wonder. May we never lose our wonder. Wide eyed and mystified may we be just like a child staring at the beauty of our King.” I first heard these lyrics from Bethel Music at EXALT adoration, and they have resonated with me ever since. How could I not be filled with wonder and awe adoring my God and King in the Eucharist—the source and summit of the Christian Life (CCC 1324)?
But I’ve often struggled with how to cultivate a sense of wonder in the ordinary ebb and flow of daily student life consisting of class, labs, meetings, studying, meals, occasional sleep deprivation, and an endless to-do list. As a cradle Catholic, it is all too easy to lose a sense of gratitude and wonder for the faith that has been so central to who I am and strive to be.
Nevertheless, God has has a funny way of shaking me out of the sleepwalking faith into which I’m so tempted to settle. Take, for example, this summer working as a Totus Tuus missionary in Chicago teaching catechesis to first grade through high school-aged kids. Week one, as I was attempting to herd my first and second graders for our customary church tour, my little buddy Jonas almost took a nose dive into the baptismal font. After we restored some semblance of order I thought I would lead them to a large crucifix located in the back of the Church so that they could say “thank you to Jesus” and calm down a bit. Jonas became remarkably reverent at this time and knelt down before the crucifix. On our way out of the sanctuary, he pointed to a sculpture depicting Jesus in the tomb and asked me, “Is that Jesus too?” Then he proceeded to kneel before this one too and thank again. How often have I walked past a crucifix and not thought to say, “Thank you Jesus”—so caught up in myself that I completely miss a chance to thank Him who gave His whole self out of love for me? God used Jonas, so little and rambunctious, but so grateful, to remind me of the importance of wonder and gratitude and draw me out of myself.
Over fall break, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Poland on pilgrimage. It was not hard to be overcome with wonder praying at cathedrals, each one just as ornate as the next. I could not help but be in awe gazing upon the beauty of the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa and witnessing the fervent devotion surrounding Our Lady. Returning to campus, I longed to go back to those extraordinary holy places where I felt I had finally escaped the monotony of life for a few moments.
It was not until a football weekend that I snapped out of this mindset. What a sense of humor God has, since not many would attribute a spiritual revelation to a Football Friday! I was praying after 5:15 p.m. Mass and watching as visitors gazed in awe at the art and other adornments of the basilica and snapped countless photos. For a second, I sat, bemused at their wonder, and then knelt and returned to my prayer. Then, by God’s grace, I realized that it was no different than my reaction to the Polish churches. They were also pilgrims encountering the glory of God and the Communion of Saints depicted through art, drawn out of themselves and drawn toward the Divine. Once more, familiarity had bred contempt—or at least apathy—on my part. I still recognized the beauty of the sacraments and the Real Presence of Christ in the basilica, but I had grown so used to going to Mass there that I had forgotten about the physical beauty that God works through too.
All of these overlooked opportunities for sanctifying the seemingly mundane remind me of a quote from Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, my Confirmation saint. She said, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.” As I told my Totus Tuus kids time and time again this summer, “God is good. All the time.” Taking that to heart with a spirit of gratitude, we will never lose our wonder at the gifts God has given us—be they an education, a much-needed paper extension, the fall leaves, seeing Our Lady brilliantly shining on the dome on the way to class, or simply avoiding a close call of an impromptu second Baptism.
Mackenzie Kraker is a junior biochemistry and theology major living in McGlinn Hall. She was very excited to see her family’s two dogs named Gipper and Rockne over Thanksgiving break. If you enjoy Notre Dame-themed pet names, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org