Fr. Tom McKenna on “Welling-Up Faith”

by | May 28, 2015 | Formation

McKenna, Father TomWelling-Up Faith    (Sirach 36:1)

There’s a writer who holds that many times the most genuine, heartfelt professions of faith are the spontaneous ones. Like unknowingly talking to a deceased parent, or coming out with an “O God!” at a glorious sunset or a move a little baby makes.

That’s the kind of faith statement the author of Sirach makes today. “Come to our aid, O God of the universe.” In trouble, he’s saying to the heavens, “Come.” Or the psalmist (Ps 79) today too, blurting out, “Help us O God our savior!”

This is a kind of profession of faith by spontaneous gesture. You almost don’t even know you’re doing it, but it’s really there, coming out of you but with something more in it. It’s really yours, but at the same time you know it’s gift too.

One of the most memorable of these up-wellings of faith came in a poem of John Shea’s called “The Prayer of Marianne Wisneski,” a single woman who works in an office.

“The Kingdom of God is like Marianne Wisneski

who is thirty-two years old

and who always hides her left hand

because as her mother said,

‘The only gold you’ll ever have

will be in your teeth.’

To make things worse

every day for lunch

she has rye crisps and a diet Pepsi.

And lately she has taken

to crying in the ladies room.



she was graced

by a more-than-ordinary brushing against

in the elevator.

Albert Scynowicz who works in shipping

said excuse me but he had two tickets

to a concert.

That night

to uninterrupted FM

she curled her legs under her on the couch,

allowed her eyes a mist of hope,

and to her surprise

found in her mouth,

like tax money in a fish,

a prayer. “

(The Hour of the Unexpected, Argus Communications:Texas, 1977, p.42)

Back to Sirach: “I’m in big trouble here, ‘Come to my aid, O God of the Universe.’”

And back to all the times in your lives when that “God, help me,” or that “Thank You God,” came up out of the deepest parts of your self. You knew it was the real you saying it – but you also knew it was someone else giving it to you to say. Faith welled up.

Tags: McKenna


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