May 12, 2009

Coincidence or Providence?

I think that a lot of people on the spiritual journey have had an experience that can be interpreted as either coincidence or Providence. We meet a spiritual mother or father who has the exact wisdom we need at a certain time. We come across the precise spiritual book that helps us forward. A homily seems to speak to our precise spiritual concern. A holy card in our pew or on the floor in church seems like it was just for us.

Are experiences like this coincidences, or little acts of Divine Providence arranged by the Holy Spirit for our benefit? People ask me that sort of question all the time. To be honest, I don't think how we interpret them matters so much. What matters is that prayer has freed us just a little from distraction and misery and made us sensitive to the superabundant goodness of God that is always around us. Little sparks or seeds of God's love are all around us all the time; most of them we miss because of our distraction, much of which is necessary in order to fulfill the work and acts of love we are called to each day.

Here's my favorite example from my own life: For whatever reason I have always had a certain attraction to and spiritual affinity for the mystery of the Lord's Transfiguration. It has always fascinated me as a sort of Resurrection appearance that precedes the Passion, given to a select, inner circle of the disciples. Praying the mystery, I'm led into its mystical, precious, and glorious light, what you would call in Latin, praeclarus.

If I had to pick a day for receiving my religious vocation, it would be the feast of the Transfiguration in 1993. Not that there was anything grand about it, but I remember praying that day--in a chapel dedicated to the Transfiguration--and finding the grace to consent in a concrete way to my desire and interest in pursuing a vocation to religious life.

So it was a delight and a wonder for me to one day calculate that I was born on the second Sunday of Lent, on which the Lord's Transfiguration has been proclaimed for as long as anyone can remember.

Is this a coincidence or an act of Providence and destiny? To me the question doesn't really matter. Everything that exists is a sort of co-incidence of the love of God and the creation that overflows out of that love. Prayer is the discipline that allows the Spirit to train us to see ourselves and the world as this perfect and mystical "coincidence."


pennyante said...

It seems to me that it isn't important whether it is a coincidence or not. What is important is that you have recognized a connection in your life that is lifegiving and fruitful. I would want to honor that connection by considering it a special gift that God has given you; and that you recognized that gift.

4narnia said...

what a coincidenc, or, is it providence? - that you would write about this topic. i had a little experience just yesterday that i would definitely call divine providence. and, yes, i agree that "little sparks or seeds of God's love are all around us all the time," as you said in your post. if we're open enough, it's easy to see just how good God truly IS PEACE! ~tara t~

Speramus (We Hope!) said...

Fr. Charles; I work in the archives of a parish. Thought you would find this interesting. I edited out the names and dates so as not to give away my location. Internet saftey

Marvelous Providence for a Pastor

A bumper sticker in a Catholic gift shop stated “A coincidence is when God works a miracle and remains anonymous!” Faith teaches us that there is nothing that happens by mere chance. Everything is measured and weighed in the light of eternity. Everything that happens is permitted by the providence of God both good and evil. Everything passes through the mind of God, before it is measured out in time. For a person with faith there is really no such thing as a coincidence. When such events occur, as in the following recorded in the life of our 4th pastor, Fr..________, it is a divine signature of God’s presence in life. It is a consolation to see the divine signature during or after the events of life. Happy ones and sad ones. God is here! God knows, he permitted everything, He will give strength and light to see us through.

When Fr. ________ preached on the vanity of earthly possessions, and losing everything by fire, only to have the church destroyed as he preached, was it not a divine instruction of acceptance? A consolation knowing that God’s hand was there and another miracle that everyone escaped unharmed?

The second event ended up to be a string of providential events. Each event has its own message and all the events, taken together, give greater proof of God’s presence with us. On November 21, 1915, Fr. Ronayne collapsed in the pulpit while preaching a homily on death. A few days latter, on _________, he died on the sixteenth anniversary of his appointment as pastor, of our parish. He was also the first of three priests in the Archdiocese of ______who would die suddenly that first week of December. The third priest to die was Fr. ________ who was also the third pastor of Our Parish.

Where these mere coincidences or the finger of God? The people who mourned the death of their pastor, undoubtedly, were greatly consoled, at seeing the hand of God in the timing of these events. These divine signatures spoke so loudly that even the secular press noted them. Did Fr.____ know about the fire or his upcoming death? Maybe, we do not really know, but we can assume that he was a good priest who tried to walk in union with the footsteps of God’s providence. The proof of so many noticeable divine signatures on his journey to eternity is a good indicator of this. How many others occurred in and around him that were for his eyes alone, or, to console others who came to him for help, we will never know.

One must take time to reflect in order to understand what divine providence is speaking in the events of life that lead up to a seeming (coincidence). A coincidence is a miracle of providence. It is the finger of God signing his name and wishing to speak to us in the events of life. How many occur in our lives that we do not notice or chalk up to mere coincidence. We are much too busy to read God’s handwriting in his providence. It takes quiet time in prayer to see God’s signature in the events of ones life and in society. The people from times past lived a much slower quieter life. God is as near to us today as he was then. Our lives are just too busy and loud to enable us to hear his divine whisper. If we could spend daily, some prayerful silent moments with him, perhaps we will also be able to read the divine signatures in our life. Dear Fr. ______ ora pro nobis!

Brother Charles said...

Thanks so much!