Rediscovering awe and wonder in the miracles of everyday life

By Daniel P. Horan, 3 November 2021
Image: Greg Rakozy/Unsplash


One of the problems with miracles is that they are, by definition, rare occurrences. At least they seem like rarities to most people since the term itself suggests a violation of the laws of nature or some other divine intervention that would otherwise be characterized as “impossible.”

The healing of a loved one suffering from inoperable cancer or a rare disease; the safe landing of a malfunctioning airplane or a brakeless car; the timing of a gift, pay raise, or new job or form of support just when a family needs it most — all of these might elicit the “M”-word from the mouths of beneficiaries and onlookers alike.

But recently I have been thinking about what it might mean for us to recognize the miraculous in everyday life. Why is it only when things seem to occur on an extraordinary scale or during the most-dire situations that we pause to acknowledge the possibility of divine presence at work in our world?

I have written before about the latent “Holy Spirit atheism” that exists in the church among so many otherwise well-meaning Christians. And I think the fact that many people have lost a consistent sense of God’s enduring, immanent and sustaining presence among us as spirit contributes to the collective perception that the miraculous happens only in the rarest or scarcest of circumstances, if at all.

This is tied, I believe, to what the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor means when he describes our modern social imaginary, a contemporary way of understanding reality that lacks an inherent sense of or openness to the divine or transcendence. As our societal narratives — and therefore our personal sense of self — shift in our modern age from one informed by the religious to the secular, we lose an intuitive awareness of the divine and transcendent. If we don’t think about the Holy Spirit, don’t talk about the Holy Spirit and don’t pray to the Holy Spirit, then it is entirely sensible that we will find it harder to recognize the presence of God among us and acting in the world in the mundane as much as the exceptional.

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Franciscan Fr. Daniel P. Horan is the director of the Center for Spirituality and professor of philosophy, religious studies and theology at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. Follow him on Twitter: @DanHoranOFM.

With thanks to National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Fr Daniel P Horan OFM, where this article originally appeared.


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