Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Good Things Come in Threes: Three May Be a Crowd, but for Christians the Fullness of God Is Not Revealed until We Invite All Three of God's Persons into Our Lives. (Testaments)

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Good Things Come in Threes: Three May Be a Crowd, but for Christians the Fullness of God Is Not Revealed until We Invite All Three of God's Persons into Our Lives. (Testaments)

Article excerpt

THE MAILBOX IS ALWAYS STUFFED with catalogs these days. Everybody in consumer America wants to sell us something: clothes, bedding, furniture, kitchenware, books, movies, cosmetics. The catalogs that really confound me are the ones full of what my Mom used to call bric-a-brac. These useless items generally go for under 20 bucks, so it's easy to get sucked into buying one (or two).

They make great gifts, wrapped and shipped for you so all you have to do is supply a credit card number. Apart from gathering dust and taking up surface area in our already crowded homes, they have no real purpose.

I am not immune to the siren call of consumerism, and so I find myself paging through piles of yesterday's catalogs during my morning coffee. Sometimes it's good for a laugh, to see what they think they can sell us now: Nostalgia! Monogrammed furniture! Something for the pet or grandchild! Anything in red, white, and blue!

But occasionally I am surprised by the audacity of these merchants of fluff. This morning while browsing through a sea of trite decorative possessibles, I came upon a group of wall hangings that flabbergasted me. They were carved out of wood, three silhouettes suggestive of a cross, an angel, and a horse-shoe. The idea was that you would buy this arrangement to better your karma in a cold, cruel world.

A cross, an angel, and a horseshoe? Now I've seen everything. At first I was amused, trying to imagine the mind that thought to put these three symbols together in order to hit all the bases of traditional, pop, and secular piety. Pray to your Savior, and if that doesn't work, count on a touch by your New Age angel. And if worse comes to worst, there's always good old-fashioned luck to see you through!

After sharing the joke, however, I felt a wave of annoyance, and finally sadness at the superficiality of the commercial impulse that equates these three signs. And naturally, there is the equally barren consumer impulse that will purchase these three and feel comfortable with the idea that they belong together. The cross, the angel, and the horseshoe may well be the trinity of contemporary religion. We hedge our bets. We worship at many altars. We want to be sure our bases are covered, because it can be a cold, cruel world, and we feel nervous roaming around in it.

What really bothers the believing Christian is the idea that Lady Luck is raised to the par of religious faith--or, conversely, that the Crucifixion is lowered to the irrelevance of a roll of the dice. Angels used to be heavenly beings representing the Godhead. Now they are domesticated spiritual pets that follow us around and protect us from the consequences of our own actions. It's a tough time to be a religious icon when the flag is in the sanctuary, the eucharistic minister is emblazoned with the Nike swoosh, and rock stars are the ones sporting the cross.

As much as it bothers me to consider it, I think there is truth in the idea that a modern trinity is formed by our acceptance of the cross, the angel, and the lucky horseshoe. Our allegiance is split all too evenly between religion, magic, and the gamble of modern living. Yes, we believe in one God. But we also believe in looking out for No. 1--which could be defined as me, myself, and I (another very popular trinity)--or the interests of my family, my race, my country, or even just my tax bracket.

If I've got the angel as my talisman, looking out for No. 1, cleaning up my messes, and keeping the effects of sin off my doorstep, I am less concerned with how the fallout is affecting my neighbor, here or abroad. My angel takes care of me and mine. Hope all is well on your end!

THE HORSESHOE (OR RABBIT'S FOOT, OR LUCKY SOCKS) IS IN some ways more direct and honest. It makes no pretense at piety. It says everything is up to chance, and life means taking risks. You win some, you lose some. If luck can weigh in on your side of the percentages, all the better. …

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