I can’t resist sharing a story from our recent camping vacation to Canada because God’s fingerprints are all over it. The adventure begins back in 1997 when a Junior at Christendom College spent the summer with us while she worked as an intern at the Arlington Catholic Herald. After she graduated she went to work full time there and met a young man whom she married in 2000. What a joy it was to go to her wedding and what an inspiring Catholic couple. They spent the night before the wedding not partying, but at a holy hour to pray for God’s blessings on their marriage. After three years at the Herald they returned to Clare’s home town in Nova Scotia, the little community of Antigonish. And, as things so often happen, we lost touch – until our Canada trip this summer, fifteen years later.
As we drove through Antigonish, Clare, who was on the way to pick up her children from school, noticed our pro-life Virginia tags and recognized Larry at the steering wheel. (Good thing I wasn’t driving!) She tracked us down on the internet and left a message on my blog. To make a long story short we were invited to dinner and happily accepted. There’s a campground in Antigonish, very convenient to their home, and since it was Saturday it also gave us the opportunity to attend Mass at the cathedral church.
But that’s not the end of the story. As if it weren’t amazing enough to have our paths cross a thousand miles from home after so many years, it gets even more unlikely. Larry and I intended to drive to Cape Breton on Sunday. But because he hurt his knee while we were hiking in New Brunswick and climbing the 100+ stairs to the ocean floor at Hopewell Rocks, we stayed two extra days at the Bay of Fundy deciding whether to go home early. Since Larry improved, we went on to Nova Scotia considering his injury an unfortunate “surprise.” But was it? Had we passed through Clare’s town on Sunday, she wouldn’t have been heading out for a school pickup and would not have seen us. Our “bad luck” at Fundy turned out to be a blessed opportunity to celebrate a reunion with a wonderful Catholic family. Not only that, we marvel at the impossible odds of such a random series of events aligning to allow such a thing to happen!
And so I’m puzzling about what this “coincidence” (or God-incident) is all about? Wasn’t it a reminder that the “God of surprises” is intimately involved in our lives and that events that appear to be negative often are gifts in disguise? Larry and I did not see his knee injury as a blessing when it happened, but in retrospect our visit with Clare and her family would never have occurred without it, and that visit remains a highlight of our trip.
One of the most blessed events in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola was his terrible injury at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521. The painful multiple surgeries and months of recovery introduced him to the lives of the saints and began his conversion. Had he returned from battle a victorious hero, we probably would never have heard of him again. But God used a disaster in his life like an explosive fireworks display to completely alter his present and his future. God transformed the vain soldier of Spain into the soldier for Christ who founded the pope’s own elite forces, the Jesuits. Think about the impact of the Spiritual Exercises and you can readily see what a blessing God had in store for His Church.
I hope the next time I endure something painful in my life, I will remember how much God loves me and uses even adversity as a gift. I want to praise and thank Him no matter what my circumstances, because He is weaving a tapestry for my life and only He knows which threads are the golden ones, so I need to place my trust in Him. Recall God’s words to the fleeing soul in The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson when he finally stops running: