Over the last couple months I have shared with you some occasions where I have sensed God coming into my life unexpectedly. I call them “God Moments”. I mentioned last week in reply to one of the comments to my post The Cradle of Faith in Ohio that I seem to recognize these God Moments when they occur because I’ve come to expect them and I’m on the lookout for them. It’s kind of like:
Matthew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Some folks may call them mere coincidences or concurrences. I won’t deny coincidences may happen but, the more of these unexplained situations I observe, I believe there is more to them than their being random occurrences of chance. Sometimes they may have elements of Divine Providence that are intended to guide us, and sometimes they are simply gentle reminders that He is here. Sometimes they are profound experiences that hit you up-side the head, and sometimes they are subtle inspirations that leave you wondering if He is having a nice belly laugh at our expense. I think I got a dose of all of these this last weekend.
You tell me.
My wife and I drove our youngest daughter from our home in Ohio to Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday morning for a campus visit and open house at the University of Tennessee. She’s a senior and trying to decide what field of study to pursue and at which university she would prefer to continue her education. After a four hour drive and four hours of walking the UT campus we hopped back in the car and headed southwest towards Starkville, Mississippi for a tour at Mississippi State University on Monday. In setting up this trip I knew it would be a long day on Saturday and considered where to spend Saturday night. Finally, checking distances and reasonable times of arrival, I settled on something in Birmingham, Alabama. I prefer to stay at hotels in one particular family of hotels and so, when I got on-line to check for accommodations, I found over a dozen possibilities in the Birmingham area. As an afterthought, it occurred to me that the parents of my future son-in-law (fiancé of my second oldest daughter), whose parents we had not yet met, lived on the south side of Birmingham. So, I selected a hotel near the interstate just south of downtown in hopes that we could perhaps meet up with them (which we actually had the pleasure of doing). We wanted to attend Mass on Sunday morning, 15 September, so I logged onto masstimes.org to find a church near us. There were a half dozen or so not too far away but we chose Our Lady of Sorrows in Homewood, Alabama, that had an 8:30 a.m. Mass which would be convenient to our schedule. It was close to Samford University where we thought we might mosey around after Mass and still give us time to meet up with my future son-in-law’s parents.
We received a friendly welcome as we entered Our Lady of Sorrows and were pleased to see the congregation nearly filling the church. Some of the tunes were different from those to which we were accustomed, and the homily was a little long, but I’ve come to expect those small differences from church to church. Mass ended and we departed the church and as we walked out the front door my wife looked up at a younger man, about six feet six and in his early forties and said, “Are you Matthew Montegut?”, to which the tall, younger man replied, “Yes, I am, and you are Melinda Robinson!” I finally recognized him as an older version of the skinny kid I used to see playing basketball in the driveway next door to my in-law’s house in Houston, Texas when I was dating my wife over thirty years ago. Our paths had probably not crossed in over twenty-five years and here we were together at the same place and same time. This was the church he and his family regularly attended. Coincidence? Maybe. But when you consider all the possibilities, the what-ifs and choices of options randomly selected throughout the process of deciding to be at that place at that exact time, the odds are astronomical. Especially if they are combined with all the possibilities from which Matthew may have had to choose to be there at the same time. I don’t think it was coincidence. I think it was more of a case where God, with a sense of humor, needed a good chuckle and answered my question of, “Why did this happen?” with a response of, “Because I can.”
Let’s rewind a couple days. On Friday I received an email from a friend telling me the next meeting of the committee for a particular ministry in which I am interested at church would be next Tuesday. I had missed the last few meetings and I really wanted to attend this one because I feel called to this particular ministry. The problem this time was that I already had plans to attend parent night at my daughter’s high school. I have always tried to do whatever I could to be there for my children and attend functions to support them, and this would be my last opportunity to do so. Many times throughout the day Saturday, from Ohio to Knoxville to Birmingham, I found myself pondering what I ought to do: attend the committee meeting or attend the parent meeting at school. I wanted to do both but obviously I couldn’t. When I knelt at the beginning of Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows, I said a typical prayer that would make author Matthew Kelly proud, “Lord, help me to see in this Mass the one thing that will make me a better version of myself.” I previously mentioned the long homily. The reason it was long was because it was that time of year for this parish to appeal to its congregation to support Catholic charities through giving of their Time, Talent and Treasure. Now, had this been like any other Sunday, the homily would have been related to the readings, in this case about Jesus welcoming sinners. But, no, it was spot on the very thing about which I had been worrying, whether or not to give of my time. And, during the homily it was revealed to me that, since my daughter is a senior, she probably doesn’t care one whit if I attend parent night at school or not, but that my time may be of more significant value if I attend the committee meeting and participate in the ministry. Coincidence? I don’t think so. No, I think this was Divine Providence, God’s hand gently guiding me in the direction I need to go. (By the way, I attended the meeting last night and I’m glad I did. And, when I told my daughter I was not going to attend the event at school she said, “That’s just fine with me, Dad!”)
One last thing-
When I was at Our Lady of Sorrows I totally forgot to snap a picture of the church. I was too stunned after meeting up with Matthew Montegut. So, yesterday as I was forming this post in my mind I went on-line to Google Images to see if there might be a photo or two of the church. But, I goofed with my first try and instead of searching Google Images I just searched on Google. The first thing to pop up was a Wikipedia entry for Our Lady of Sorrows. This wasn’t what I was looking for but it caught my interest and I opened the site and read a bit. I read and pretty soon I had a grin from ear to ear. I learned that in 1913 Pope Pius X declared the Liturgical Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to be, henceforth and forever more, on the fifteenth day of September of each year, the very day I happened to attend Our Lady of Sorrows church in Homewood, Alabama. Coincidence? Again, I don’t think so. I think God, with his arm around my shoulder, was lovingly telling me, “I Do because I Can. Have faith in Me.”
What do you think?
I can’t make this stuff up, folks.
A friend and follower commented in Bolo Ties, Rosaries and Rainbows , “My blessed mother, God rest her soul, always said that you get special blessings when you visit a church for the first time.” After visiting Our Lady of Sorrows, I’m thinking my friend’s mother knew what she was talking about.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and any special “God Moments” you might want to share.
Good night and God Bless.