From a chapter titled On Brazen Heavens in The Night is Far Spent, a consideration of prayers and petitions that do not appear to be answered by God, in this instance, for restored health:
And so we begin to think about all our prayers and vigils and tastings and abstinences, and the offices and sacraments of the Church that have gone to the throne on behalf of the sufferer. They have, apparently, been lost in the blue. They have vanished, as no sparrow, no hair, has ever done. Hey, what about that?
…we kept vigil and nothing happened.
Did it not? What angle of vision are we speaking from? Is it not true that again and again in the biblical picture of things, the story has to be allowed to finish?…And is it not the case with the Whole Story, actually—that it must be allowed to finish, and that this is precisely what the faithful have been watching for since the beginning of time? In the face of suffering and endurance and loss and waiting and death, what is it that has kept the spirits of the faithful from flagging utterly down through the millennia? Is it not the hope of redemption? Is it not the great Finish to the Story— and to all their little stories…And is not that finish called glorious? Does it not entail what amounts to a redoing of all that has gone wrong, and a remaking of all that is ruined, and a finding of all that has been lost in the shuffle, and an unfolding of it all in a blaze of joy and splendor?
A finding of all that is lost? All sparrows, and all petitions and tears and vigils and fastings? Yes, all petitions and tears and vigils and fastings.
“But where are they? The thing is over and done with. He is dead. They had no effect.”
Hadn’t they? How do you know what is piling up in that great treasury kept by the Divine Love to be opened in that Day? How do you know that this death and your prayers and tears and fasts will not together be suddenly and breathtakingly displayed before all the faithful, and before angels and archangels, and before kings and widows and prophets, as gems in that display? Oh no, don’t speak of things being lost. Say rather that they are hidden—received and accepted and taken up into the secrets of the divine mysteries, to be transformed and multiplied, like everything else we offer to him—loaves and fishes, or mites, or bread and wine—and given back to you and to the one for whom you kept vigil, in the presence of the whole host of men and angels, in a hilarity of glory as unimaginable to you in your vigil as golden wings are to the worm in the chrysalis.
But how does it work? We may well ask. How does redemption work?