Tuesday, November 17, 2009


As I think you know, I love solving the “Celebrity Ciphers” in the daily newspaper. They are good opportunities for mental calisthenics and often offer a bit of wisdom or insight when solved. Today’s was special to me:

I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.
--Astronaut John Glenn

Glenn, of course, was referring to the opportunity he had while orbiting the earth in the 1960s in our early Mercury space program. But his comment took me back a bit, to the 1940s, when Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince). The hero of this story also had the chance to observe many sunsets in a “day,” since his home (Asteroid B-612) was so small—all he had to do was move his chair.

‘One day,’ [the Little Prince] said to me, ‘I saw the sunset forty-four times!’
And a little later you added, ‘You know—one loves the sunset, when one is so sad…’
‘Were you so sad, then,’ I asked, ‘on the day of the forty-four sunsets?’
But the little prince made no reply.

How often do we experience sadness and seek (and often find) consolation and comfort [these two are not the same thing] in the presence of Nature, or music, or poetry! We somehow instinctively know the truth St. Ignatius Loyola wanted to teach us, that we can (and must) find God in all things. A sunset, a poignant melody on the stereo, an animal nibbling at food we’ve put out in the yard for it—we seek and find His presence there, who calls to us through our sadness.

In his own way, the Little Prince lived out our own Christian hope that no matter what the trials, there will be a way out (and strengthening) for us. But he offers us a special key: do not despise what is offered to us as our means of ‘escape,’ for what we might at first blush think beneath us or contemptible may well be the most special means of our salvation. To end with a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings:
'All that is gold does not glitter…'

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