This Pentecost, remember the gift of divine providence — and the need to be open to it

My breakfast in New York City that morning started a little later than usual, so I finished at 9:40 a.m. I made a quick left on 57th Street, a right onto Lexington Avenue — and as I was crossing the street to catch the subway I heard someone call out, “Fr. Michael!”

A 26-year-old young man from Washington, D.C., who had been involved in our leadership training program during his grade school and high school days, greeted me with a big smile in the crosswalk.

“Fr. Michael, I just started working in the city with a venture capital firm, and I have been thinking of reaching out to you,” he told me breathlessly. “This is so funny we’re meeting right here in the city. I’m in the process of making a lot of big decisions, and your guidance was always so helpful over the years.”

We talked for awhile, and I gave him my business card so that he could reach me in New York. He will now be plugged into our Lumen young professionals group in Manhattan. Good timing — or God’s providence?

Several years ago, during my flight back from Rome, I had a connecting flight through London’s Heathrow Airport. During the flight, the woman who sat next to me opened her heart and explained that although she was working for Microsoft in Seattle, she was very unhappy. She felt her true calling was to be a teacher in a Catholic school — and she was blinded by the bling and big bucks her current job offered her.

As we left the plane to board the shuttle, another woman sat next to me. This person happened to be the principal of a Catholic grade school in Seattle. Business cards were exchanged — and both individuals were very happy to have met each other. Good timing — or God’s providence?

For several summers, I was the chaplain for a Catholic lacrosse camp at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Each day began early with a brief meditation and Mass, and after a full day of scrimmages and work-outs, we finished with a prayerful visit to the chapel. One night, while the kids were heading to their dorms for bed, I was wrapping up my priestly prayers outside and walking up and down the sidewalk (mostly to stay awake!).

I began to feel this insistent voice in my heart and conscience saying, “Fr. Michael, please go and make a visit to the chapel.” I responded internally by saying, “Lord, I have just finished my prayers and I visited you several times already in the chapel today … I am exhausted and really need to go to bed.”

This insistent voice did not stop, so finally around 11 p.m., I sauntered toward the dark chapel. Unable to find the light switch, I simply went to the nearest pew to kneel down for a quick visit. Within 10 seconds, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder and a voice said, “Father, I have been waiting for you. Can you please hear my Confession?”

I had not set up this appointment, and given the complete darkness of the chapel I could not see this person, but again, this was clearly the work of God’s providence!

The Feast of Pentecost is an appropriate time to reflect on the power and action of the Holy Spirit in the world today, and in particular, in “your” conscience and “your” world. Do you try to create internal silence to hear His whisper? Are you able to perceive God’s constant and loving activity in your daily life? I believe The Holy Spirit is “hyperactive” — but He desperately needs our hearts to be open, and our willingness to walk down His inspired paths.

Fr. Michael Sliney, LC, is a Catholic priest and the New York chaplain of the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders.