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The Divine Design

Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Catholic Online

In my early twenties I attended a conference sponsored by an enthusiastic movement in ecumenical Christian circles. One of the workshop speakers was a Southern Baptist minister who had helped to found a large network of Christian communities which identified themselves as “non-denominational” churches. Born in Alabama and raised in an anti-Catholic home, he had grown in his admiration of the Catholic faith through his experiences with Catholics. He had also become quite popular as a speaker.

A friend encouraged me to select this workshop from among several offered during the morning hours of this conference. It was a memorable experience. The speaker’s love for - and familiarity with - the Christian Scriptures was inspiring. He had committed many to memory and the verses flowed naturally within the context of his teaching and preaching. His style was inspiring. He passed back and forth from scripture to insight, much like the dynamic that is found in the writings of the early Church Fathers. This familiarity with the scriptures fanned a flame growing within me, a hunger to be immersed in God’s word in order to be more deeply converted through an encounter with the Living Word, Jesus Christ.

Having spent my own early childhood in Dorchester, Massachusetts, I was quite unfamiliar with Southern mannerisms. His accent, carriage and vocal cadence kept my attention and ensured that I heard the entire message. I had a very different set of childhood experiences growing up in the City! He began his talk with a story from his rural Southern childhood which was filled with symbolic insight. That story, which I heard almost thirty years ago, has repeatedly come back to my mind as I have lived my very real life, filled as it has been with all the unexpected turns, disappointments, sorrows and joys that are the stuff of human experience. I share it with you now, my reader, in the hopes that it can help you as well to believe there is a Divine Design.

The speakers’ mother had frequently taken him to southern “Quilting Bees” where local women would gather to display their quilts and work together on new ones. These experiences began when he was a toddler. The task of hand quilting involved the use of large wooden Quilting frames. His mother would place him on the grass to play while she participated in quilting. He recalled crawling to the quilting frames where, from his vantage point, he could only see strands of thread, fabric and splashes of color hanging down between the wooden slats. He vividly recounted that one special day when he was able to pull himself up on the side of the wooden frame and behold the beautiful design from above.

It was an epiphany moment. What had once been perceived by a toddler as strands of fabric, thread and splashes of color was actually revealed as an extraordinary tapestry. The quilter was an artist who had a beautiful design in mind from the beginning. As the speaker grew older and could stand upright on his own, he was able to see those designs with less difficulty. He would never forget that moment of encounter as a toddler when he pulled himself up on the side of that Quilting frame. The story served as a rich pictorial image and symbolic framework for his entire presentation. He opened up a deeper understanding of How the Lord works in our own lives. There is a Divine design. From above, there is a pattern, being woven by God out of the fabric of our everyday lives. It is from below that this often appears as strands of thread and cloth. As we grow in faith and co-operate with grace, we are enabled to pull ourselves upright through our choices, our exercise of human freedom.

Living faith mediates the mystery of God’s loving plan and opens our spiritual eyes to behold the Divine Design.

This story, and the image that it conveys, has reemerged at pivotally important times in my own life. Let me be honest, life is often confusing - and pain is a part of the program. As I have aged, I have become more honest about all of this. In spite of your best efforts, things do not always go the way that you had hoped. The questions emerge at an ever deeper center, a core. Questions such as “how does this all make sense”? The speaker gave another insight drawn from quilting. The quilter begins at a center point, with a patch of cloth that becomes the reference point from which he or she weaves the entire pattern of the quilt. From that center, the design emanates and to it, the design returns. It is also to that center that the eye is drawn when the whole quilt is observed from above.

For the Christian, the center from which the Divine design proceeds in our own lives- and through which we begin to discern the beauty of God’s perfect plan - is the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is the central patch of cloth from which the ...

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