God’s Design, Fate or Karma? Keeping the Faith While Writing

One of the things I draw from both Eastern spiritual practices and my Catholic faith is the sense of being a small piece in a bigger puzzle, the sense of the infinite surrounding us. This morning, I got rather an unusual lesson in that as I was doing some research for a scene in my book. I’ve written before about letting reality guide my storytelling, something that’s likely a side effect of my journalism training and background. The deeper I dig into this rewrite, the more I find the bigger pieces of reality aligning with the story. It’s disconcerting, and at the same time, reassuring.

Andrew Greeley often distinguishes between God’s Chicago and his Chicago in his novels starring fictional Catholic priest/bishop/archbishop Blackie Ryan. So, stealing from him, God’s Massachusetts has been remarkably well aligned with my Massachusetts during this revision.

The first occasion was when I remembered that 1991 was when Hurricane Bob rolled through New England. I looked up the dates, and discovered it was just a week before All That Is Necessary starts. The hurricane actually solved some timeline inconsistencies and pacing issues that came up in the early drafts.

This morning, I settled in to work on the setup to the climactic scene, some changes to make sure Dan was acting, not reacting, heading into the final showdown. Because the updated timeline has the final events occurring on a Sunday, the morning Mass gave me the venue for a key piece of the setup. As I started drafting, it occurred to me to check on the readings for that weekend. After a bit of digging, I concluded that the readings would have been the 24th week of Ordinary Time in Year B of the Lectionary cycle. These are the days I’m glad I used to work in the church rectory and picked up a lot of the nuts and bolts of the faith.

The readings for that week are Psalm 116: 1-6, 8-9; Isaiah 50: 4-9a; James 2: 14-18; and Mark 8: 27-35, according to the website I found with the Lectionary cycle laid out. For the Protestants reading this, we Catholics tend to not be particularly good at biblical citations — we know the stories, but not necessarily where in the Bible they fall. I think the only three I can even put in a book are Timothy (“I have finished the race. I have fought the good fight. I have kept the faith”), Ecclesiastes (“A time to live…”) and Corinthians (“Love is patient…”).

So once I looked them up, I found that they all hit on a theme — which was by design of the Church. But the theme was exactly what Dan needs to hear that morning as he’s debating whether to go through with the events that trigger the final showdown. I’m not quite sure whose design that was. Certainly not mine. My timeline was driven by the hurricane, Labor Day/the start of school and the necessary space between events to be plausible.

I’m Irish enough to believe in Fate, and have practiced enough yoga to believe in karma. Whether this comes down to God’s design, Fate or karma, it’s enough to give me pause this morning — and then to reassure me that this story is falling into place for a reason. That’s an odd kind of faith to have, but on this Sunday morning, it’s enough.

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