God’s Personal Presence

Too many Catholics believe God is not present and cannot be bothered with them



Nine months ago I bought a new high-quality car battery because mine was ten years old and might give up the ghost any day. My auto mechanic honored the aged device as a ‘miracle battery’ for lasting so long.

Since I’m now in my eighties and “on borrowed time,” I don’t drive much anymore. My rebuilt 1999 Honda Accord sits in primo condition. But a Smart Charger every Friday night keeps it from discharging after being idle all week.

Saturday morning is my shopping day, among other chores, so after breakfast I removed the charger, only to discover my car wouldn’t start. Yikes! I meter-tested the battery voltage and found it was 0.5, not 12.5 volts. Bad news! At this point, I felt a tad panicky and reattached my Smart Charger. It showed a numeral which meant it was truly dead. I paced the garage floor, trying to keep calm, then phoned my auto insurance for a service tech. A half-hour later, he arrived with a testing device.

“Your battery’s dead. You’ll need to replace it,” he said without emotion.

“I bought this nine months ago! You sure?” I asked with fretted brow.

“Yup.” Then he carried in a PowerPac, connecting its leads to my battery. It was delivering 16 volts while he pointed to the driver’s overhead lamp. “That light was on all night. That drained your battery. I see this a lot. Kids on their cell phones forget to click the light off. Your battery is still under warranty. Tow the car in on Monday for a new one.” Then he walked back to his truck and, after a client phone call, left in a hurry.

I stood there in mild shock, praying to God for help. How was I to go shopping today? I’d have to walk about three miles, carrying back a sack of food. I thought, Why not connect the Smart Charger again before I go to the store? See what happens. Nothing to lose. I was surprised to see that it now showed “60%: Low.” Hmmm. I left it on while I went shopping, hoping it would be charged when I got back. That would be a small miracle.

On my return two hours later, I was delighted to see my charger now showing 70%. It continued charging while I did Saturday chores around the house, and three hours later it read 90% at 12 volts. I ventured to start the car; it came alive with a roar. Yeah!

The running voltage was 14 volts. I took a ten-mile ride, came back, and measured it again at 14.35 volts with the engine still running. That meant my generator was working, and my battery was miraculously resurrected from the dead. Thank God. What a relief.

I shared my intriguing saga with an old buddy of mine, sparing no details. I quipped that God had answered my prayer, resurrecting my hopeless battery from the dead.

“Seriously, Richard, God could be 20 billion light years away dealing with some cosmic issue but would rush back to assist you with your dead battery? Do you realize how that sounds to a man of science?”

“Ken, regardless of how crazy it sounds, your statement makes me realize that you don’t believe in a personal indwelling God who doesn’t have to travel 20 billion light years to help His devotees. He already knew my dilemma and awaited my plea for help. You rationalize that God is far away from us. That’s not true Christian belief.”

He insisted his baptism made him a full-fledged Catholic. So I asked, “Ken, here’s the critically important question: Do you believe Christ resurrected Lazarus and others from the dead, and that He also rose from the dead?”

If he said no, Ken was a masquerading Christian that had fooled me for fifty years.

He retorted with a tossed salad response avoiding yes or no. His quibbling made me realize he couldn’t accept the miracles of Christ. Was he biased by scientific protocols? Or hadn’t he yet suffered enough from an intense tribulation such as the death of a child, a nasty divorce, or bankruptcy? What he seemed to be lacking was the mystical death and rebirth experience prefigured by Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

I have met folks who have survived tribulations and have undergone the metamorphosis of being reborn (John 3:3) that turns mere flesh-and-blood humans into hosts of the Living God. They are blessed with a beatific vision of the Real Presence in both consecrated forms of the Holy Eucharist and in saintly human hosts, too.

Unfortunately, Ken is one of the 70% of cradle Catholics who see the Eucharist as nothing more than a symbol memorializing Christ. Maybe I’ve discovered why: their “God” is too busy working some 20 billion light years away and cannot be bothered to answer prayers or nourish souls with His sacred Body and Blood.

Since my friend is a history buff, I said, “Did you know Thomas Jefferson deleted from his bible all of Christ’s miracles because he was a polymath scientist who couldn’t accept any of those supernatural events?”

I explained that Jefferson believed in the Supreme Being but not as a personal indwelling God, ever ready to rescue His devotees. Like most of the other Founding Fathers, Jefferson was a staunch Deist who valued reason over revelation and rejected traditional Christian doctrine, including the Virgin Birth, original sin, and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

“Ken, is that how you feel about Catholic doctrine and the biblical miracles of Christ?”

Ken went silent, and I said no more. No need. I expect the Truth stood its ground. Truth, wrote St. Augustine, is “like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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