God is humor. He knows where we are. “You know when I sit and when I stand” (Ps 139)
The streets of Uccle (Belgium) are not clean. Every day, I paced cautiously along the dirty sidewalks. This was the place to which I had been assigned as a parish priest. I often looked up and remembered the glorious rosy sky over the bay, at home; great gulls passed silently, flying in the sumptuous sunset light…
One of our parish missions with the School of Mission from Paray-le-Monial was held in Dungannon, Northern Ireland. As I was preaching at one of the masses, I happened to quote St. Thérèse’s famous words: “when I picked up a stray pin that some sister had lost, I did it with love, so as to please Jesus.”
As I was unvesting in the sacristy, there came a gentleman, visibly moved. He stammered: “Father! This is extraordinary! You mentioned St.Thérèse, and look!” The man was showing me a little pin, with a green tip (Erin oblige!) “Father, I am a devotee of ‘Little Flower’, you know, but, look what I found on the floor as I walked to receive Holy Communion! I have come to this church for over 35 years and I have gone to receive Holy Communion thousands of times; never did I find a pin lying on my way! This is a great gift of blessed Thérèse to me Father!” The man was overwhelmed. And so was I.
Back in Brussels, as I was walking to the church for the vigil mass, carefully watching the cement path to avoid the dogs’ gifts,my eyes suddenly fell upon… a pin!!! Right before the butcher’s shop, there it lay, a pin with a green tip, a twin of the Irish pin, there it was, glaring up at me from the muddy pavement! Taken aback I picked up the tiny thing, stuck it respectfully into my lapel, and walked on in a daze… It was as if the Lord – or St.Thérèse – was gently teasing me: “You see! I know you hate these dreary streets, and I walk them by your side, day after day… Go and tell my flock of my Presence in their daily lives… Go,and tell them!”
And so I did, still under the shock of my unexpected encounter! At that mass, I told the story: God really Knows where we are… After the mass a parishioner came up to me and said: “Father, as you were telling us your story, I thought in myself “Oh well, that’s all very good for others, but never will such a thing happen to a poor guy like me!… And look!…
As I was approaching to receive Holy Communion, behold, something shining caught my eyes, and there it is: a pin! A real pin! Never did I find a pin lying on the floor on my way to the altar!.
You imagine my surprise?
Back to the Rectory, I told my brothers about it. One said:” You have to tell it again tomorrow at he Sunday mass! Isn’t that something?”
The next morning, I spoke about God knowing where and who we are. The pin in Ireland, the similar pin in our street, and this third pin in our church! “For look at that: one of you found a pin, yesterday night, right here!
I noticed my parishioners bending down in search of a possible pin…
“No! No!” I claimed “such things are not to be looked for!… God knows who you are!
Months elapsed. I went back to Brittany and led the Pilgrimage of the Seven Saints. One day, as we were celebrating mass in the shade of tall beech trees, near the fine XVth century St. Herbot Chapel, I spoke about the ever present God in our lives. A woman from the North of France, not a church-goer, was lying on the grass among a thousand pilgrims. A few months later she addressed me her beautiful testimony. She wrote: “Indeed, as I was listening to your story last summer, I thought “poor guy; what a naïve person! Why is he telling us about those ridiculous coincidences?” Yet, your little pin did not seem to quit my mind. I tried in vain to get rid of that stupid thought, as we were heading to St. Pol cathedral. Your ridiculous story somehow seemed to cling to my memory. Summer went by and I found myself in the midst of a family gathering near Marseille. Although a non-believer, I accompanied my siblings to the meeting. A mass was planned in a little chapel overlooking the Mediterranean. Why did I then think of the beech-trees and the grass around St. Herbot Chapel? Why did I remember your words, “God knows where and who we are”?… Incredible as it might appear, a little pin was glistening on the stone threshold of the old shrine… I felt aghast. Looking over the sapphire blue sea, in the light breeze of the autumn afternoon, I suddenly felt as if embraced in a joyful and immense wave of love… I write to you today, because I think that your tiny pin really made a breach in my disbelief.
Written by: Fr. Dominic + (NY)