I consider myself to be something of a connoisseur of kitschy Catholic magnets.
Having had the good fortune, in my lifetime, to spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchens of the elderly faithful, I’ve seen it all. The silhouette of a Rosary with the caption “Call your mother — she’s waiting to hear from you.” A nativity tableau that reads “Every family needs a stable foundation.” The classic “WWJD” — a real ecumenical gem, it’s a favorite across all denominations.
One that always irked me, though, was this: “It doesn’t matter what the question is. The answer is Jesus.” This particular magnet adorned my grandmother’s refrigerator for years, and my sarcastic adolescent brain just couldn’t handle it.
That’s just silly, I thought. Jesus is not the answer to every question. Jesus is not, for instance, the answer to the question, ‘What should I have for lunch?’ Or the question, ‘Who is your favorite Beatle?’ Or the question, ‘Why won’t my parents buy me a car?’
But darn it all if that magnet doesn’t pop into my head as I read the fourteenth chapter of John.
Every question has a backstory, even the little ones. Every silly, ordinary question has a larger question floating beneath the surface. What should I have for lunch? Because I am hungry. My body is tired. It needs food. It is a passing thing, a dying thing, and one day it will dry up and crumble away with the dust. Is there anything that could sustain it forever?
Who is your favorite Beatle? Because we all have opinions about this. Mine is Paul, obviously. Such a great songwriter, and such a tireless performer, and so faithful to his fans. Gosh, I love the Beatles. Their music is great. I can’t explain why. It makes me feel … I don’t know. Is there anything else that makes me feel the way that music does — happy in a way I can’t explain, for reasons I don’t understand?
Why won’t my parents buy me a car? Because I really want a car. I look like an idiot being dropped off at school by my dad every day like I’m 12 years old. Gosh, I care so much what other people think of me. I want them to like me. I want them to love me. Is there someone who could love me even though I look like an idiot all the time?
Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. The answer is always Jesus. Ahh, Grandma — touché.
My grandparents are dead, their belongings long ago dispersed to various relatives. I have no idea what’s become of that magnet — probably languishing in a far-flung Goodwill with a 49-cent sticker affixed to its back. Perhaps one of my aunts salvaged it, but I doubt it — it’s not the magnet that was important. It’s not the magnet that we carried with us from the house when it was being packed up and sold. What we carried with us was the answer to all the questions.
— Collen Jurkiewicz Dorman
Gracious and holy Father,
grant us the intellect to understand You,
reason to discern You, diligence to seek You,
wisdom to find You, a spirit to know You,
a heart to meditate upon You.
May our ears hear You, may our eyes behold You,
and may our tongues proclaim You.
— Prayer of St. Benedict