Words of Wisdom in Troubled Times

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on September 11, 2021

“How easy it is, in times of ease, for us to become dependent on our routines, on the established order of our day-to-day existence, to carry us along.” These words greeted subscribers to the monthly spiritual magazine Magnificat 20 years ago, on the morning after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. The meditations in Magnificat (whose digital arm can be found at us.magnificat.net — a daily gift in my life) are chosen months in advance. There was no way for the editors to know what we all would be facing on Sept. 12, 2001. Many people saw a divine hand in that selection. It certainly helped hearts. It can again.

The meditation was from Father Walter Ciszek, a Jesuit priest who spent two decades in Soviet prisons, convicted of being a “Vatican spy.” His words, taken from his book He Leadeth Me, come from a man with the courage of conviction. There is a desire for normalcy, but is the comfort of routine just a false security?

We are Dependent on God

Father Ciszek has thoughts about “normal”: “We don’t have to desire much of the things of this world — to be enamored of riches, for example, or greedy or avaricious  in order to have gained this sense of comfort and well-being, to trust in them as our support — and to take God for granted.”

And this is what wowed readers, looking for some comfort and insight into how to process the terrorist attacks on the United States two decades ago: “Somehow, then, God must contrive to break through those routines of ours and remind us once again … that we are ultimately dependent only upon Him, that He has made us and destined us for life with Him through all eternity, that the things of this world and this world itself are not our lasting city, that his we are and that we must look to Him and turn to Him in everything.”

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That is not to say that God caused the attacks — that’s not how it works. But it is a reminder that bad things happen when we take God for granted, when we forget to see God’s presence in the world. During the pandemic, churches in New York City were closed, often for months, while liquor stores remained open. It certainly seems like we’ve been taking God for granted again, and at a time when we most need God’s presence.

More to Life

Father Ciszek continued in Magnificat: “Then it is, perhaps, that he must allow our whole world to be turned upside down in order to remind us it is not our permanent abode or final destiny, to bring us to our senses and restore our sense of values, to turn our thoughts once more to him — even if at first our thoughts are questioning and full of reproaches.”

We were questioning 20 years ago, and we are again today. We wonder about the people who we have welcomed into our country. We wonder about the next terrorist attack. We worry about COVID-19 and variants. We worry about finances — oh goodness, how we do! Enough! There is more to life than fear and the relentless quest for security. The future is unknown. All we can do is love. And trust in God. Faith is a gift, and I pray it that you receive it. And if we believers did a better job trusting in Him, we wouldn’t be the nation of fear we sometimes seem to be. Now and then, this is a crucial takeaway. Christian living and believing make all the difference.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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