Why Stories Matter (Especially Today)

“This song was written for me.” How many times have you felt that way or heard someone else say that? You know it isn’t the literal truth. Not every 15-year-old girl hangs out with Taylor Swift. I’ve never met anyone who has Adele’s phone number. And Sir Paul McCartney doesn’t make a habit of crashing his fans’ birthday parties. Famous songwriters are strangers to most of us, but their lyrics often seem to be speaking directly to us.

Here’s how:

The right combination of emotional words helps us to recall events from our own lives or imagine new ones in detail. Strung together around a conflict and a message, these words become stories. When stories about common experiences are shared, people are united, no matter what spans between them. 

What would life be without stories? Boring. Insignificant. Lonely.

As Catholics, we can enhance our spiritual lives through the inspiration, meaning, and communion stories offer us.

Be Inspired by the Lives of Saints

Today is All Saints’ Day, when we remember the lives of those men and women whose miraculous acts on God’s behalf made the world better during their time and ours. We assign them roles in our physical, geographical, social, academic, occupational, familial, and spiritual lives based on their life stories.

We name our churches for them. We choose one to represent us at confirmation. We name our children for them. We ask for their intercessions during times of need at home (ever lost a set of keys? St. Anthony to the rescue!), at work (I owe you big time, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton!), in the hospital (how can I ever repay you St. Gerard?), and when we feel like giving up (St. Jude, you’re a busy man, but I just wanted to tell you thanks).

Though we’ve never met them, we can identify with the life stories of saints because they’re not unlike our own: seldom without strife, but sharing a common, timeless theme, “Never lose faith.”

Find Meaning in Scripture

It’s hard sometimes to trust God’s plan, especially when you’re in the midst of a conflict and far from sainthood. For that reason, I begin each day reading the Bible, either here: Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible NRSV or here: http://dailyscripture.net/.
After reflecting upon His words, I always find myself thanking God for guiding me through my troubles. No matter what my problem of the day is, the right answer is always in the day’s reading. “This book was written for me,” I tell myself, knowing full well I am far from alone.

Today’s readings, particularly the Beatitudes, were especially significant for me, and I hope for everyone else who is coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

 Find Communion in Other People’s Stories

We are fortunate to be unscathed by the tree that fell on our house. “That’s all that matters,” everyone keeps telling me. “It could have been worse.” They’re absolutely right. Though the water damage was worse than we initially anticipated, I’m grateful that God spared us. We’ve been blessed with wonderful people who are making this easier, especially my parents, who have been kind enough to let us stay with them until we can return to our house.

As stories emerge from people affected by Hurricane Sandy, I find it easier to cope with my current circumstances.

Seeing entire cities covered in water allow me to appreciate that my husband’s crops are alive and well, that most of our roads are safe for travel, and that I haven’t lost everything.

Hearing about the courageous doctors and nurses who transported fragile infants from an NY NICU during a power failure and the NYPD officer who died saving his family as floodwaters engulfed their home reminded me to be grateful for the heroes we encounter every day. It’s also reinforced my obligation to serve my students and my own family, regardless of how desperate I perceive the circumstances to be.

I know there are other Catholics were affected by Hurricane Sandy, especially considering its direct impact on areas heavily populated by people of our faith. I hope to hear their stories, to connect with some of them, and to offer them whatever supports I can.

We continue to pray for all who suffer in the wake of this incomparable storm, regardless of their background or beliefs.  

Stories Offer Us Hope and Answers – So Does God

I’m trying to keep positive thoughts and gratitude at the front of my mind, but this experience is still overwhelming.

There are questions about what didn’t happen:

·        What if we had been in the house when the tree fell?

·        What if our entire house had been completely destroyed?

Those questions cannot and do not need to be answered. I need to stop asking them.

There are questions about what will happen soon:

·        When will the roof, the walls, and the floors be fixed?

·        When will the rain stop?

·        When can we go home?

The answers will be provided by God in His time and by His will and means. All He asks of me is trust and patience, which ironically is something I must pray for.

There are no questions about what happened. There are no doubts that we are blessed. We have the Beatitudes to remind us of that. I will continue to look to the Saints, to the Bible, and to the stories of others for hope and direction. A little dose of “Amazing Grace” might not hurt, either. That song was written for me. And I know I am not alone.     



Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.