The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Finding God in All Things

The simple study of a flight map toward the end of a tedious journey became a rather marvelous occasion of grace.

(Image: Eva Darron/Unsplash.com)

There is, to be sure, a stress within the Biblical tradition that God is radically other: “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” (Isaiah 45:15) and “No one shall see [God] and live” (Exodus 33:20). This speaks to the fact that the one who creates the entire universe from nothing cannot be, himself, an item within the universe, one being alongside of others.

But at the same time, the Scriptures also attest to God’s omnipresence: “Your Wisdom reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well” (Wisdom 8:1) and “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; . . . If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-12).

This speaks to the fact that God sustains the universe in existence from moment to moment, the way a singer sustains a song.

What is perhaps the defining feature of the spirituality associated with St. Ignatius of Loyola—”finding God in all things” —flows from this second great biblical emphasis. Despite his transcendence, God should not be thought of as distant in any conventional sense of the term, certainly not in the Deist manner. Rather, as Thomas Aquinas taught, God is in all things, “by essence, presence, and power.” And mind you, since God is endowed with intellect, will, and freedom, he is never dumbly present, but always personally and intentionally present, offering something of himself to us. Therefore, the search for God can commence right here, right now, with whatever is at hand.

One of the questions in the old Baltimore Catechism was “where is God?” The correct answer was “everywhere.” Once that truth sinks in, our lives irrevocably change, for now every person, every event, every sorrow, every encounter becomes an opportunity for communion with God. The seventeenth century Jesuit spiritual master, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, expressed the same idea when he said that everything that happens to us is, directly or indirectly, the will of God. Once again, it is impossible to accept the truth of that statement and remain the same person you were before. This always already graced quality of “all things” functions as the starting-point for Ignatius’s spirituality.

Ignatius has been very much on my mind, for I am in Europe filming a documentary on his life and teachings for my Pivotal Players series. On the long flight from Los Angeles to Rome, I had occasion to enact the principle I have just been describing. Ever since I was kid, I have loved maps and so when I find myself on a lengthy plane voyage, I spend a good deal of time with the flight map, which tracks the location of the plane, vis-à-vis landmarks on the ground. I had read and watched some videos for the first part of the flight and then I had slept most of the time we were over the Atlantic, but when I woke, I began studying the map with great interest. We were passing just north of Ireland, and I could clearly see the indications for Dublin, where my mother’s father was born, and for Waterford, where my father’s grandfather was born. I commenced to think about these men, neither of whom I ever met, who bore the Catholic faith that eventually came to my mother and father and finally to me, as a sheer grace.

As the plane continued its journey across the English Channel, northern France came into view on the map, and I saw the great name “Paris.” Suddenly, a slew of memories flooded my mind: my simple room at the Redemptorist House on the Boulevard Montparnasse, Notre Dame, where I used to give tours to English-speaking visitors; the Institut Catholique where I did my doctoral studies; all of my Parisian friends, teachers, and colleagues who accompanied me across those three years; the beauty of Paris on a rainy day. And all of it, I knew, was a grace, sheer gift.

Next, I saw that we were approaching the Alps and so I opened the window screen and looked down on the snow-capped mountains that were gleaming in the sun. How could I not appreciate this view, which untold generations of human beings wouldn’t have even imagined possible, as a splendid gift?

In a word, the simple study of a flight map toward the end of a tedious journey became a rather marvelous occasion of grace. I wonder whether we would find this sort of experience less anomalous if we mused on the fact that God positively wants to share his life with us, wants to communicate with us. Perhaps the problem is that we stubbornly think of God in the Deist manner and relegate him to a place of irrelevant transcendence. Then the spiritual burden is on us, to find some way to climb the holy mountain or sufficiently to impress a demanding moral overlord. What if we accepted the deeply Biblical notion that God is always already busily and passionately searching for us, always already endeavoring to find ways to grace us with his love? What if we blithely accepted the truth that God can be found, as Ignatius taught, in all things?


If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


About Bishop Robert Barron 160 Articles
Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. He is the creator of the award winning documentary series, "Catholicism" and "Catholicism:The New Evangelization." Learn more at www.WordonFire.org.

5 Comments

  1. There is a distinct difference in the manner by which God is present in all things. Bishop Barron touches on a line demarcating pantheism from faith. His intention is of course focused toward the latter. ST 1a 8 Ad 3 references God’s presence essence and power in all things in two modes, each different in kind. The first is efficient cause. In the first God’s essence is not revealed though them, for example in “Reply to Objection 1. God is said to be in all things by essence, not indeed by the essence of the things themselves, as if He were of their essence; but by His own essence as the cause of their being”. This first manner of presence is where pantheists remain, similar to a current notion in Catholicism ‘That God is everywhere’ meaning there is no need for being before the Real Presence in Church. That the gift of spiritual grace is found in appreciation of physical beauty. The second manner of presence is entirely distinct since it refers to the operations of the soul. God is present as that which is desired, “As the thing known is in the one who knows; and the thing desired in the one desiring. In this second way God is especially in the rational creature which knows and loves Him actually or habitually. And because the rational creature possesses this prerogative by grace. He is said to be thus in the saints by grace”. Again Bishop Barron does not propose pantheism rather more of an aesthetic view subject to grace. Nevertheless this vital distinction must be made. For myself there are persons I love that have been misled to believe [by Jesuits no less] that God is everywhere as if the Real Presence were amorphous.

  2. In a line worthy of deep contemplation and broad dialogue, Bishop Barron writes that “This [God’s infinite presence] speaks to the fact that God SUSTAINS the universe in EXISTENCE from moment to moment, the way a singer sustains a song.”

    A small part of the impasse between Christian revelation and mindset of Islam might be peeled back from this very statement. . . . In the West we see God as FIRST creating and THEN sustaining the universe. Islam makes no such distinctions. For Muslims to accept any secondary but autonomous “laws of nature,” for example, is still to assert a separate “autonomy” from the only-one autonomy of Allah—-and this perceived dichotomy is blasphemy.

    So, today, part of the West-East impasse is the historic chasm between a post-Christian, post-Enlightenment and Utilitarian culture and, under Islam, the absolutely unencumbered and even arbitrary willfulness—-moment to moment—-of an only-transcendent Allah (scripturally, Elohim without Yahweh?). Some Muslim scientists today are still quoted as saying, “that when you bring hydrogen and oxygen together THEN [only] BY THE WILL OF ALLAH water was created.”

    Quite independently, C.S. Lewis also wondered POETICALLY in this direction: “Is oxygen-and-hydrogen the divine idea of water? . . . There is no water in oxygen and no water in hydrogen; it comes bubbling fresh from the imagination [willfulness?] of the living God.”

    So, “a small part of the impasse”—-engulfing Islam’s confusion between poetic fluidity and theology, versus the amnesiac West’s replacement of theology and metaphysics with the physical sciences.

    Modernity takes God out of the public square, while Islam takes the public square out of man.

  3. “Perhaps the problem is that we stubbornly think of God in the Deist manner and relegate him to a place of irrelevant transcendence. Then the spiritual burden is on us, to find some way to climb the holy mountain or sufficiently to impress a demanding moral overlord. ”

    Is anyone else tired of the straw man characterizations/arguments served up as accurate “deep” depictions of contemporary humanity’s spiritual condition? The cited statement itself rebels against itself. So many out there are trying to “impress” an “irrelevant God?” Really? This is the story of contemporary man or the present day statistical majority in the Catholic Church?

    The real “problem” is that we have been progressively taught a graceless, increasingly this-worldly neo-religion currently heading into eco-socialism/animism/pantheism… and yes effectively, I said effectively, universalism. The best part? The effects of original sin…despite the current headlines and personal disasters…and scandal in the Church…were apparently greatly exaggerated. In short what revelation revealed was that the world was right after all?

    So many are burdened trying to “impress a demanding overlord”…well, not so many cardinals or bishops…is this “burden” the fear of sinning? fear of not impressing some “demanding overlord” now causing scores of the baptized laity to leave the Church?

    How many in the yes, non-Deistic German based Hegelian inspired hierarchy (and their initiates) consider an Eternal Unchanging God as in the classical theism of Augustine and the referenced Aquinas also “irrelevant?” Yes, “irrelevant” just like the “traditions” of old? EXCEPT if they are the “traditions” of Amazonians, Chinese Communists, those whose faith is Islam, atheists and European Globalists.

    We are then told, “Don’t be angry. Let it go” in a similar way after a priest embezzles money from a parish…”You need to be calm (sociopathic?).”

    Until the Faith is unambiguously taught by the Pontiff and the Hierarchy…until the Trinity is boldly professed before ALL on this planet starting with every Catholic…and the Church is no longer ashamed in any way of the Gospel and does not hesitate to hesitate to say Jesus is Lord, public musings about “Finding God In All Things” become very easily simply displays of presumed spiritual connoisseurship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.


*