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Definition of a miracle

Written by Sister Jan Craven, director of the shrines

How good are you at dates? Let’s find out.  The year that the Sisters of Providence were founded in France was the same year that Noah Webster published his first dictionary. Good, you got it right, 1806.  In order for Noah to expand his publication into a fully comprehensive dictionary, and to help him trace the etymology of words, Noah learned 26 languages.  Yes, I said 26.  Mother Theodore learned two languages around the same time period.  The year that Sister St. Theodore professed her first vows, Webster finally completed his comprehensive dictionary in, of all places, Paris, France.  Good guess again…1825. The year that Mother Theodore was just getting back from her second voyage to America, George Merriam bought Webster’s company and secured publishing rights.  Yes, you are right, 1843. So far, so good. Let’s switch gears now and concentrate on one of the words in the Merriam Webster dictionary.

One of 171,476 words contained in the latest version of Merriam Webster’s dictionary is the word miracle.  A miracle is defined as “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” Some synonyms are ‘wonder’, ‘marvel’, ‘phenomenon’ and ‘mystery’.  A second definition of miracle is “a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.” I was surprised to see a third definition of miracle in Mr. Webster’s dictionary: “an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.”

It is my hope that in each of your lives you have surprising and welcoming events happen.  I see, read about, feel, and experience the wonder, marvel and mystery of the work of a divine agency, aka: PROVIDENCE… each moment of my life and I pray you do too.  By the way, in 1859, the Merriam Webster Company added illustrations to the dictionary three years after Mother Theodore died. It is a miracle to me that both Mother Theodore and her contemporary, Noah Webster, had a great love for words!

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Sister Jan Craven

Sister Jan is a Sister of Providence. Currently she ministers as co-director of Providence Spirituality and Conference Center and as director of shrines at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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