God Speaks Through the Little Things

If you listen closely, the still, small voice can be heard in the stuff of everyday life.

Mary Cassatt, “Picking Flowers in the Field,” 1875
Mary Cassatt, “Picking Flowers in the Field,” 1875 (photo: Public Domain)

“You gleamed and shine, and chase away my blindness. You exhaled odors, and I drew in my breath and do pant after you. I tasted, and do hunger and thirst.” —St. Augustine of Hippo

Throughout that winter of 1968, we would notice her at the 10:15 a.m. Sunday Mass, nine rows from the altar on the pulpit side. Or more accurately, we would notice her hat.

The hat was a beige-ish color that today’s Etsy merchants would call “ecru,” but which to my 8-year-old mind was milk-in-the-bottom-of-the-bowl-after-you’d-eaten-all-the-Cocoa Puffs color. The hat’s distinguishing feature was a panoply of dangling sequins, nickel-sized discs that would make gentle clicking sounds whenever the hat-wearer bent her head in prayer. With the reliability of a road sign, the hat would draw us toward the pew in which my family normally sat. Even my distractible and directionally-challenged little brother would simply head for the glinting discs when my mother, late as usual, hurried us into church during the Epistle.

After our quarter-mile walk through winter weather, the hardwood pew was as inviting as a hearthside. There, after completing our weekly shuffle of glove-peeling and hat-doffing, my brother and I would be hastily placed in reverent postures by maternal hands. Once we were settled, I would be free to indulge my senses until the Concluding Rite. I’d listen contentedly to the church sounds: the voice of the priest echoing in the cavernous church, the click of rosary beads, the hiss of dwindling candles, the clink of coins in the collection basket. I would smell the lingering incense, the melting wax, the wet wool of my coat, my mother’s Sunday perfume.

And I would watch the light shimmer, dance, and wink on the ecru sequins in front of me. In those moments, the world was as perfect a place as I could imagine. There was comfort, light, security and warmth. My family was with me, and God was there. Right there.

More than half a century later, I still am mesmerized by sequins. In any craft goods aisle I’ll stand transfixed, fingering a package of sequins and turning it this way and that so as to see the light play on the smooth, shiny shapes. Invariably, the image of those dangling ecru discs will come vividly to mind, and I’ll be mentally transported to a place that’s welcoming and warm, fragrant and familiar, sublime and — above all — sacred. 

It’s easy to encounter God in the natural world; even those who don’t know him can feel his presence in a glowing sunrise or a sparkling waterfall. But God also speaks to us through the little things: “Little” in either size or significance, “things” that are either abstract or concrete. He is the Communicator whose voice may be heard in the stuff of everyday life. How is God speaking to you today? What trinket or trial, parley or picture has brought him to mind?

Shannon Mullen, Editor-in-Chief of CNA

Meet CNA’s New Editor-in-Chief, Shannon Mullen (July 31)

A new era has begun at the Catholic News Agency even as the news cycle continues to bring challenging stories both inside the Church and around the world. This week on Register Radio, we get to know Shannon Mullen, the new editor-in-chief of CNA. And then, we are joined by the Register’s Washington Correspondent, Lauretta Brown, to catch up on the latest pro-life news from the nation’s capital.