Providence and Purification
It was a busy, and at times, frustrating day last Friday. But God would remind me there are some things we can’t control, and perhaps traffic jams and missed connections happen for a reason! These challenging moments can purify us and strengthen us to trust in God’s providence.
Last Friday, Tim and I – Tim is the producer of the Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life cookbook (available now – tell your friends – wink, wink) and the Grace Before Meals TV show – were on our way to an interview about Grace Before Meals for CBN in Washington, D.C. We passed a unique building, called the Embassy and Cultural Center for the Country of Eritrea. How curious? I’d never heard of that country before, though we did have a significant conversation about the place that sparked a desire in me to learn more about Eritrea. But first, God would make sure I learned a little more about patience and trust – which is the only way we can learn about anything.
Test #1: The last–minute CBN interview and the DC traffic would require a change in flight plans. Test #2: My lack of PowerPoint computer skills caused some concern because the presentation was the NEXT DAY! Finally, Test #3: Arriving at the airport – busy, even though it was late at night – would be the perfect venue for God’s Providence to make us not find our transportation escort, who was there. We just didn’t connect in the midst of the confusion. Tim and I were convinced the altered flight plans confused the situation, and it would be better to just take a cab. It seemed, though, God had more providential plans for me and Tim.
The cab driver, a pleasant man with a curious accent, had a rosary dangling from his rearview mirror. Long story short—he was from Eritrea! But there’s more. Our driver Bereket then told us how the Catholic Faith is one of the religions that was not oppressed or suppressed by the occupying forces, due to Vatican Diplomacy. He loves America, but commented how American culture is too busy at times, and that the fast pace discourages him, because it makes it difficult to spend time with his young family. At first, he confessed that he didn’t go to church regularly because of busyness. But now, as a young father he realizes that church on Sundays and his family meals are what keeps him going in life.
Can you imagine! Without knowing anything about our Grace Before Meals movement, he basically restated the entire Grace Before Meals mission! At the end of the cab ride, he proudly told us how his two-year-old son now says the prayer before meals. Or at least, he mumbles through the bigger words until he proudly pronounces the words AMEN in the language of Bereket’s homeland! Bareket’s humble explanation of his home country, Eritrea’s faith, and its culture of strong families makes Eritrea no longer a subject of curiosity, but a source of inspiration for what we were hoping to do in our travels – to encourage family prayer and meals!
There’s no doubt in my mind that the challenges and uncontrollable changes of plans that I experienced on that busy day were lessons to learn patience and trust, and also an opportunity to learn more about a fascinating country and an inspiring people. My introduction to experience the faith and family strength of Eritrea came at a perfect time. The purifying moments of our day, i.e., the challenging moments in our day, can be perfect opportunities for God to teach us more about Providence.
This weekend, we were not only in Charlotte, N.C., for the 3rd Annual Eucharistic Congress, we also made a drive to Lexington, S.C., for the Family Day Celebrations for the Diocese of Charleston, S.C. At the Church of Corpus Christi in Lexington we had a beautiful experience. Fr. Bob Sayer, a good pastor of souls, welcomed Tim and me, as well as several hundred people, into his backyard for a Grace Before Meals presentation. What a great day. Kathy Schmugge, the director for the Diocese’ Family Life office, had a staff of people who did a great job in feeding the crowds and setting up everything for a big picnic. As part of the day’s celebration I was asked to do a cooking demo. So, I offered two menus, both of which could be served as a main meal or as a sampler platter. We had a Grilled Steak Bruschetta with a Sweetened Blue Cheese Cilantro dressing and a Shrimp dish I call, “Spritely Shrimp!” Both events were so blessed – even if it was hot as “H-E- Double Hockey Sticks!” But, despite the heat, I have to admit, the visit to both Carolinas was a very cool experience! For the shrimp recipe [click here].
Saints Cosmos and Demian
When we are busy to the point where everything is planned perfectly, God sometimes reminds us that some things are out of our control. Therefore, we are called to be organized in our day, so as to avoid laziness and sloppy sloth. But at the same time we are also called to be open to God’s Grace, so as to not be obsessive-compulsive, micro-managing “mini-gods!” who think they control the world! Saints Cosmos and Damien, the feast we celebrate every September 26, remind us that God’s Providence has one goal – to help us become saints. These two men were studying to be physicians. They were almost “miraculous” in their ability to cure to the point of increasing the popularity of Christianity. They were eventually killed by the jealousy of the Roman Emperor in the 300s. They remind us that challenges in life – and challenges to life – have a Divine Healer. God! In times of stress and when plans don’t work out the way we want them to, let’s pray to trust in God’s Providence. It was the very thing that helped Cosmos and Demian become Saints, and it was the very thing that brought Bereket (the cab driver) at the perfect moment!
“Father, all powerful and ever living God, we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks. Through Your beloved Son, You created our human family. Through Him you restored us to Your likeness. Therefore, it is Your right to receive the obedience of all creation, the praise of the Church on earth, and the thanksgiving of Your Saints in Heaven. We too rejoice with the angels as we proclaim Your glory forever! Amen!”
Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.