In 1965 The Lovin’ Spoonful recorded their hit, Do You Believe in Magic. A happy, feel-good song, it went on to take ninth place in the Billboard Hot 100 list that year. We might borrow their song title and rewrite it as: Do you believe in Divine Providence? Do you—do we—believe that God is in control and that He has a unique mission and perfect plan for each and every one of us? I mean, do we really believe in God’s Divine Providence, and in its beneficial impact on every moment of our lives? Or, is it something that we think may apply more to other folks, perhaps?
God’s Providence Behind Two Marian Hymns
God, in His Divine Providence, can take whatever we bring to the table and use it for His greater glory—if we but let Him do so. After all, whatever we bring to the table came from Him in the first place. Why wouldn’t He use our imperfect human nature, attributes and skills in His overall plan of salvation? Consider, for instance, Blessed Herman of Reichenau, “Herman the Crippled.” He was born with a variety of physical problems, including cerebral palsy and spina bifida. His parents gave him over to the Abbey of Reichenau when he was just seven years old. This crippled Benedictine monk, who went blind in his later years, composed the Salve Regina and Alma Redemptoris Mater before dying at the age of 41.
With fidelity to grace and docility to the Holy Spirit, he created these two wonderful pieces of transcendent beauty. And they are two of the four Marian antiphons still in use today during in the Liturgy of the Hours. Every time we hear or sing these beautiful hymns, we can thank Blessed Herman. We also can thank God for His Divine Providence in using Blessed Herman so powerfully.
St. Ignatius of Loyola and Divine Providence
Ignatius of Loyola came from a family of Spanish nobility. He was a man of action, military educated, and a veteran of multiple campaigns. That all ended when he was wounded in battle— when Divine Providence came into play. During his recovery, the only reading materials he had were books on the lives of the saints, and on the life of Christ. His time reflecting on his reading led to a conversion of heart. Furthermore, it resulted in what are now known as his Spiritual Exercises which are a compendium of prayers and suggested practices for deepening one’s interior life. Included within the Exercises are his Rules for Discernment of Spirits. The Rules represent a key resource today for people seeking spiritual growth. Divine Providence led St. Ignatius to a life of prayer and insights on prayer that continue to benefit the Church today.
Divine Providence, Louis and Zélie Martin
The Louis and Zélie Martin provide another example of what surrender to Divine Providence looks like. Louis Martin initially wanted to join the Augustinian canons. However, it required skill in Latin and he couldn’t master the language. Zélie Guerin, whom he married in 1858, also had wanted to enter a religious order, but was not successful. Through the years, Zélie gave birth to nine children, four of whom died within a period of three years. Four of the remaining children ended up joining the Carmelite order. Initially, both Louis and Zélie desired to become members of religious orders. Each was denied. After marriage, they gave back to God two little boys and two little girls. Yet, because of their faithfulness to God and His grace, and living within all that Divine Providence offered, we can thank them for St. Therese of Lisieux, nun, mystic, and Doctor of the Church.
Looking at Divine Providence in Our Own Past
We can, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, see Divine Providence at work in the lives of the saints. This is true for even the more obscure figures such as Blessed Herman. But do we see how God’s hand has been at work in our own lives? We probably all can look back on what seemed to be unconnected incidents and events over time that have led us to where we are in the present moment.
Perhaps there was the promotion, or new job that did (or didn’t) come through. For some, it could have been the end, or the beginning, of a business venture, or some other relationship. Maybe there was a relocation for some reason, resulting in outcomes that differed from initial expectations. A relocation to be near family, for example, may have opened up a plethora of opportunities for growth in one’s interior life. Or, perhaps a casual discussion with a stranger resulted in a whole new group of acquaintances, spiritual friends and support.
The list is limited only by our personal experiences. Looking back on it all, can we recognize the role of Divine Providence in our lives? My wife and I have considered the chain of seemingly unconnected incidents in our life over the last 15 years. These events have resulted in some tremendous blessings when taken as a whole. To be sure, at the time, we didn’t see them all as being beneficial. We know now, though, that Our Lord orchestrated or allowed them for our benefit. As St. Paul tells us, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) Sometimes, we just need to continue reminding ourselves of that fact.
Entrustment to Divine Providence Through Mary
Maybe seeing how the hand of God has worked in our past lives can make it easier to let Him be in charge of our future lives. We might be more inclined to trust in His Divine Providence going forward if we can look gratefully at what He’s done for us to date, through the good times and the bad times. Many of us even may recall with humility and joy how Our Blessed Mother has brought us back, or closer, to Jesus. And Jesus and Mary give us the example to follow – “…not what I will but what you will…” (Mk 14:36) and “…May it be done to me according to your word…(Lk 1:38)” It’s about being open to God’s will for us, embracing His unique plan for and in our lives.
He does have a unique plan for each of us, in our place and our time. He has a reason for us to be right here, right now, serving His Kingdom. We simply need to be open to His will. One thing is certain in all of this. By entrusting ourselves—all that we have and are—to Jesus through Mary, we can become God’s instruments in His plan of salvation. In trustful surrender to Jesus’ Sacred Heart, through Mary’s Immaculate Heart, we give ourselves over to God’s will. If, as I, you have decades of experience in trying to be self-reliant, this entrustment can be quite a battle. Yet with God’s grace, and our intentional efforts to be faithful to His grace, we can do it. This is especially true when we go to Our Blessed Mother for her help in all of this. She will not let us fail.
Mother of the Church,
Gate of heaven,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comfort of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Virgin most powerful,
Pray for us.