Welcome Back, Wonder

December 5, 2023
Archdiocese of Baltimore

Everyone as a child has an instinct to wonder about the world. How could the stars in the sky and height
of a great tree be anything other than a testimony to some unknown greatness? Yet nearly everyone as
an adult experiences an atrophy of this sense as the responsibilities pile up. With so much to do, what
else is there other than the next task? In both these ways my life was completely typical for many years.
I knew this was a dissatisfying and fundamentally incomplete way to live, but a return to wonder
seemed to be a mere fantasy.

Thanks be to God, that sense of wonder was returned to me gradually – it became especially apparent
on a family fishing trip shortly after I returned to practicing the Faith and a year before I entered
seminary. Fishing is the family past time and has been central to every vacation we’ve taken for the past
20 years. It was a chance to break the routine of professional life and stay close to my parents and
brother. Sure, it was always pleasant, but I don’t remember ever feeling so enlivened by the experience
as I did on that day.

On the calm water with my back to the shore, I looked out and thought I could make out the curvature
of the earth itself on the horizon. The deep blue sea before me seemed to wilt on the periphery of my
vision as it stretched beyond my line of sight. A world that for years had been shrinking returned to its
full size, too big to wrap my arms around and too deep to imagine its limits. The world was again three
dimensional and I was very much in it. What lay before me was limitless and mysterious, but not
confusing. I was immersed, but not irrelevant amid the grandeur; terribly small, but anything but
worthless. It made sense, even if I couldn’t express it in the moment.

I don’t recall feeling any physical sensation, or even a distinct emotion, but both peace and vigor poured
into my heart and it grew back to the size it was when I was a child. There was undeniable beauty and
order before me. Instinctively, I knew that beauty can come only from a brilliant artist and order can
come only from a rational mind. I’m so very grateful that I didn’t confuse the art and the artist. But this
would’ve contradicted the experience itself: I was immersed in the beauty and grandeur; I was part of
this great tapestry. Surely, I was created by the same brilliant artist.

When Our Lord invited me to priestly formation, He gave me the great gift to make some more sense of
this experience. What I knew but couldn’t express in my own words, was laid before me by the saints
and philosophers of centuries past. All creation testifies to the brilliance and perfection of the One
through whom and for whom all things were made. It is intelligible because it was made by God who is
perfectly intelligent. What a gift to see beauty and now come to know the artist! If I only saw the art, I
surely would have fallen back into the morass of the mundane as time wore on, but to see myself as
part of God’s creative work nudged me further along the path to discipleship. The faith I had recently
returned to converged with the childlike wonder. God had become more present in every bit of His
creation. It sounds childish, but that’s exactly the point. I’m His creation, His artwork, and His child.
Living out my vocation is the fullest way I can say to God, “Yes, I am Your creation, Your son. Let me be a
part of your perfectly beautiful plan.”

Kevin McCarthy is a seminarian at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. His home parish is
The Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. Please pray for Kevin!