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Mining our Faith

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 23, 2011

Stories continue to circulate about the thirty-three Chilean miners who were trapped underground for sixty-nine days last year, and then dramatically rescued. Initially feted as heroes, some of the miners soon began telling lurid tales to eager “reporters” who sometimes offered fame and money to those who would tell all.

Fortunately, one serious and diligent American journalist, Jonathan Franklin, had unprecedented access to both the rescue operations and the miners themselves. This is because Franklin is an insider who has lived in Chile for sixteen years, an experienced investigative reporter who speaks fluent Spanish, and a family man who, with his Chilean wife, has six daughters. Franklin’s definitive book on the ordeal, published by Putnam, is entitled 33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners. I have not read the book, but it does promise to be the best possible account.

My concern here is a simple spiritual caution. We ought not to be surprised by the range of human behavior and emotion exhibited by thirty-three men trapped underground. That some of the miners should have been near despair when the first probe reached them after seventeen days is certainly to be expected, and that they considered cannibalism and suicide is no more startling than is the incessant demand for the unsavory details of their struggles on the part of spiritually-empty readers with nothing better to do with their lives.

Ordinary scared men. Some heroes, some villains, some a little of both. And some who received marijuana in letters from relatives as the rescue operations progressed, but refused to share their grass with the others. Leading to hatred and conflict. It figures: A cross-section of humanity trapped underground is, after all, just like us.

And what about the Catholic faith of the miners? It certainly helped many of them, just as it helps many of us. But their experience ought to remind us that the test is not above-ground piety where everything is sunny. The test is below-ground trust in Christ, in the darkness of your life, when your brother is scared and your God seems far away. This is the kind of faith that breeds love when even life seems no longer possible. If we read about the Chilean miners, perhaps we ought to be looking for that, and praying that this faith is also ours.

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: edwillneff3195 - Apr. 25, 2011 9:13 PM ET USA

    I have absolutely nothing to add to the excellent evaluation given below: "As noble an expression of Christian responsibility as can be written. Surely eligible for the Daily Meditation in MAGNIFICAT!!!"

  • Posted by: jonesd3170 - Feb. 23, 2011 1:29 PM ET USA

    Five paragraphs, 27 lines, [398] words: As noble an expression of Christian responsibility as can be written. Surely eligible for the Daily Meditation in MAGNIFICAT !!!

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