Madonna House

Hidden Glory

by Kathy McVady

During my vacation last fall, I had the opportunity to visit Kartchner Caverns in southern Arizona. It was a fascinating introduction to a living cave: one that is still in formation.

And the story behind its discovery and its eventually becoming a protected state park was nearly as intriguing as the magnificence of the cave itself. Both opened my eyes to a profound mystery.

One November day in the early ‘70’s, two university students whose hobby was spelunking or caving, decided to explore the area around a sinkhole they knew.

On that particular day, the weather conditions happened to be exactly right for them to experience gusts of air laden with the heavy smell of bat guano (excrement). That told them that there was a cave hidden nearby.

With hard work and perseverance, they managed to penetrate to a large “room” filled with growing formations. This was a cave explorer’s dream: a virgin cave, still in formation, one that had never been seen by any other human person.

Knowing the damage that can be caused by thoughtless amateurs, they knew that the existence and location of this cave had to be kept secret. Caring for and protecting the cave became for them a solemn responsibility.

They located the owners of the land and fortunately these owners also wanted to take part in preserving the cave.

The combined efforts of the cavers and the owners were instrumental in getting legislation passed so that the cave and surrounding area could be developed as a state park. (Surprisingly, the best way to preserve a cave is to develop it as a tour cave!)

I took a couple of tours of the cave and found myself caught up in the wonder and awe of this much-hidden part of God’s creation.

God creates the right conditions and quietly allows this work to proceed inch by inch, millimeter by millimeter, over centuries. Beauty is there, and yet, who will behold it? Perhaps no one will see it for thousands of years.

As I emerged again into the daylight, I glanced around at the many people congregating around the exhibits and shops. And suddenly I realized that within each of these unique persons is another beauty.

In each of these people, within the contours of their individual conditions and histories, an inner formation is taking place. Often this is happening in silence and darkness, and often it is as yet undiscovered.

Our foundress Catherine put it this way: “Then we turn our faces to God the Father, the Immense Sculptor. Once we were clay, dust. Out of that clay he fashioned us….

“Now, turning our faces to God the Father, we say in all simplicity: ‘Once more, clay comes to you, but now clay with a free will …. Shape me into the likeness of your Son.’

“And God the Father will bend toward me and you, and in our poor human faces, shape the likeness of the Christ of Gethsemane, the Christ of Pilate, the Christ of Sorrows…

“And then someday God the Father will come and say, ‘Now arise, for I desire to shape you in the likeness of my Son in glory.’”

Thus, I too, like the young men who discovered the cave, have a sacred responsibility, a responsibility to respect and care for each human person, especially those of whom God has given me a vision, if only a fleeting one, of the beauty being created within.

And that may well include myself!