Jan. 15, 2014
By Father William Muench
“Embracing Coincidence” by Carol Lynn Pearson is just a little book, one of those coffee table kind of inspirational books. I noticed it recently while I was visiting my brother’s home.
I didn’t take the opportunity to read the book but the title intrigued me. It struck me that we should see something special in the many coincidences that happen in our lives. This little book calls upon us to look for meaning in everything that happens each day.
Personally, I remember learning on a retreat that I should see the hand of God in what happens in my life, things that many would consider only a coincidence. I consider such things as God’s surprises for me. These are the wonderful happenings that often give me direction in life – even when I least expect it, often from someone or something that I least expect.
Someone comes along or something happens that’s completely unplanned and truly surprising – and it brings me closer to the Lord OR, something happens that leads me to do something good in my life, often even spectacular – and always a complete surprise.
I believe that part of being a good Christian – a good follower of Jesus – is seeing the Lord in everything. So, I pray often for the gift of being always aware, always ready, so that I will not miss the surprises that the Lord has planned for me today.
Each evening – I like to look back over my day in gratitude for God’s surprises for me that day.
I remember so many situations. I can think of the times I suddenly thought I should stop at the hospital for just an ordinary visit and, when I get there, I meet someone who had a real need, who truly wanted to see a priest. This would be a real surprise to me; I know it is one of God’s surprises for me.
I have met some people who I needed in my life – in a most surprising way – and they are God’s surprises for me.
This year, God’s surprise – not only for me – but for all of us, as Church, is Pope Francis. I don’t believe any one of us fully realized how exciting our Church would become for us Catholics when Pope Francis was elected.
The surprises began when Pope Benedict XVI decided to retire and then it was announced that he would begin his retirement in just two weeks. Then came the conclave – and I remember making a list of my favorites among the Cardinals to become the next Pope. My list did not contain Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. I didn’t even know who he was. However, along he came – our new Pope – Pope Francis.
Since then, in less than a year Pope Francis has become a profound influence on our Church, bringing new life and new hope to all of us. His simplicity of life and his informality have been so refreshing and life giving to our Church and to me. His ideas and his clever way of expressing them have made a difference to us Catholics and to many of other Churches. I find it so wonderful that many who have given up on the Church – many Catholics who have left the Church – are suddenly listening and finding a renewed relationship with their Church.
Today, I am writing this on a very snowy day – actually, a very snowy week. They are telling me that parts of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are buried in snow. Talk about surprises! Many families are spending a great deal of time together and I bet this is a real surprise. I would hope it’s a very good surprise, a wonderful time to be family, to be close together. I hope that the storm means a strengthening of family life in our North Country.
By the way, do you have some good surprises from the Lord to share? Let me know. (Father Muench may be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)