Chance encounters of the divine kind.
PARK Benches, whether sun scorched or dew dappled, are rarely left unattended. Most of us willingly accept a bench’s invitation to stop and rest for a moment—to plan our next move, eat a quick lunch, or simply take in all the day has to offer in our neck of the universe. We are not usually looking for conversation when sitting alone on a bench. But somehow conversation finds us.
Once while I was sitting on a park bench on a crisp summer morning, a good-looking young man, lying in the grass a short distance away, started smiling at me. I was sure he was flirting with me, so I looked away without acknowledging him. Eventually that old bench beckoned him to come sit beside me. Darn, I thought. I really wanted to finish this book. But there I was politely saying, “Good morning,” and allowing the conversation to flow.
I can’t remember the book I was so intent on reading, but I will never forget my conversation with this beautiful soul. Slowly, but with determination he got his story out. He told me of his love and loss and struggle to get his life back on track. I was mesmerized by the rawness and honesty of his words. In the weeks that followed, I encountered this young man several times in the park, and each time I learned more details of his road to healing and wholeness. He asked few details about me. I wasn’t sure he even knew my name. On what came to be our final meeting, he handed me a gift and asked me not to open it until he was gone. He said, “Thank you for letting me talk and for listening,” and with that he was gone. When he passed from view, I opened the gift he had given me. It was a necklace with my name engraved on it.
I consider this my Emmaus story—a chance encounter with someone who only later did I recognize to be a divine emissary sent to help me know what was most important: Being open, available, and welcoming to strangers and always, always inviting God into the conversation.
Our annual VISION vocation discernment guide is designed specifically to encourage you to invite God into all of your internal and external conversations about who you are and want to be, and what will give you the greatest joy. Every article provides definitions and examples of what a life-fulfilling vocation looks like and how to discern which vocation is right for you. Please take the time you need to weigh your options. Perhaps an hour spent sitting on a bench in a park will help bring you clarity. You never know who you’ll chance to meet!
—Patrice J. Tuohy, VISION Publisher
Other articles to help you encounter God in the 2019 issue:
See the Spirit in sisters, by Sister Diane Roche, R.S.C.J.
- There is something about the communal effort to serve others while living simply and without a mate that makes religious life a sign of hope, even to people who are not Catholic.
Brothers: Keepers of the faith, The editors interview Brother Herman Johnson, O.P.
- Brothers walk through the world a little differently, says Brother Herman Johnson, O.P. At the heart of his vocation is being a loving brother to people you won’t find in church.
What it takes to be a good priest, by Father Jim Kent, O.F.M.Conv.
- Being a priest is an awesome honor and responsibility. To be of service to others is to be a channel of God’s grace, and that is the heart of this special vocation.
VISION Spotlight - Divine design: The holiness of place
- Where do you pray? Hopefully anywhere and everywhere! But it helps to have special places set aside from the distractions of everyday life to get into a prayerful state.
Read much, much more in VISION 2019!