Happy New Year!
Black-eye peas for prosperity, noodles for long life, ham for progress, cabbage for riches – these are some of the New Years foods to which good luck is attributed. In our secular world, much stock is given to all types of superstition throughout the year. While this may offer a bit of entertainment, the danger lies in assigning a weight to them that is beyond harmless fun. As with many questionable beliefs, there are also logical ways to explain what seems at first blush, to be magical. In reading an article in my January issue of Women’s Day entitled Make Your Own Luck, I found an enlightening take on just such things.
While the article also does not imply that there is such a thing as ‘luck’ it does give some interesting parallels between those who are ‘lucky’ and their views of life in general. You see, those who consider themselves lucky have certain characteristics that invite ‘luck’. They are observant, willing to be flexible, and prone to expecting a good outcome.
Before we go on, however, let’s explore what Mother Church has to say. For the record, horoscopes, fortune cookies, good luck charms, etc. are taboo in our Catholic faith. They give an authority to something that is not of God and attempt to usurp His Almighty Power which, rightfully, belongs only to Him. One has only to read about the Third Commandment in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to ascertain that:
III. “YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME”
Divination and magic
2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
There is, however, something useful to be learned from those who are ‘lucky’. We can quickly make the connection with those who are bright in their outlook and their seemingly ‘lucky’ existence. If you keep your eye on the brass ring and reach for it, no matter how unattainable it seems, you are bound to come up with a bit of good fortune as a matter of course. Unlike those who appear to operate on a negative outlook, those who achieve are always on the lookout for the good in life. Their goals are set high, which assures that they will always be spurred to do their best. This way of thinking goes nicely with our belief that we are all saints in the making – a seemingly unattainable goal. How much higher can a goal be, than to reach all the way to a Heavenly home? How much more preferable is it, then, to grasp for a life that emulates our heroes – the saints – who have already achieved?
In order to make our own ‘luck’ we must be willing to make changes for the better. While the comfort of the old and familiar is certainly a temptation, we must be willing to open ourselves up to the new directions that God places in our hearts. Sometimes these new directions can be frightening in their feeling of insecurity and lack of the familiar. But we do have a ‘net’ to catch us if we fall – His Name is Jesus! So in order to advance in an entirely new direction, we must give ourselves over, completely, to His call – whether in a whisper or in a shout!
Even something as inane as a good luck charm can warrant a closer look. It’s not the ‘good luck charm’ at all, but how that object makes you feel; it simply gives its owner a sense of well-being and confidence. My sister and I often joke about being a Dumbo Feather to each other. You remember the big-eared baby elephant of Disney fame who could fly, only if he held his ‘magic’ feather? We know that we can accomplish most of what we set out to do, but the little bit of a boost we feel from the support of the other, takes us to new heights.
Our Catholic faith also gives us objects to help us literally ‘feel’ the confidence we need to achieve. They are sacramentals and our faith prevents us from assigning a superstitious quality or ability to them. But they can aid us in reaching for Heaven because Mother Church, in her wisdom, encourages blessed objects for our spiritual use. Wearing my Four Way Medal, for example, gives me a physical reminder of the power of God and prayer. I often find myself touching it throughout the day as a reminder that I am not alone – not because it offers a magical protection – but because it reminds me that Jesus, His Mother, and His Angels walk, unseen, beside me through any struggle. Our rosaries, statues, and Holy Water are there as well, to offer a strengthening reminder of our faith as we strive for holiness.
Armed with our faith in God and a willingness to be open, we can achieve unbelievable success. Our eyes (and minds) simply need to be receptive to the good things in our lives. We need to be flexible in our thinking and willing to take action on faith alone – knowing that we have our support system in place. With the sacraments and sacramentals our Mother Church provides we can attain the seemingly impossible. Jesus is there and is more than willing to be our Dumbo Feather, no matter what obstacles appear to be in our path. So fly to the highest heights and achieve the greatest goal of humanity – armed with everything you need to succeed in this life and the next!
Jesus, I trust in You!
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I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love.
— Henri J.M. Nouwen
(The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life)