One common misconception about prayer is that we take all the initiative. Au Contraire! As great saints like Therese of Lisieux pointed out, everything is grace. If I’m inspired to pray it is because God has drawn me to do so. However this doesn’t eliminate free will; we can acquiesce to these promptings or simply ignore them. I would greatly recommend not ignoring these divine inspirations of grace. One day while attending Mass at the tomb of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, I responded to a particular prompting of grace. What followed was a classic moment of being surprised by the grand conspiracy of divine providence.
Nestled in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is a sprawling and beautiful sight to behold. Once one enters the shrine, the tomb of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is to the right of the altar. I often liked to pray at the shrine, asking for St. Elizabeth to intercede for my studies. Well, St. Elizabeth definitely decided to intervene but in surprising a way.
One day while attending Mass at the “Seton Shrine” I had just received the Eucharist and was about to offer my intentions for someone, a practice that was not out of the norm. However on this particular day it was as if my mind was blank. I wasn’t able to think of anyone or anything for that matter. This momentary “blank” was replaced by a name: Taylor. It was as if someone had taken their hand and dipped it into my head and left this particular name.
Now the name itself wasn’t that strange. I had known Taylor since about five years of age but through the chaos of life, we seemingly had lost track of one another and hadn’t spoken in years. Despite the apparent randomness of this moment, I simply offered my intentions for Taylor and went about my day.
A few hours after returning back to school I heard the distinct “ping” of a Facebook message. I looked over at my phone and Taylor had messaged me. Taylor was happy to inform me that she was going through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and was excited to see what I was doing with my life (I was studying/discerning at Mount St. Mary’s). I thought to myself that it was great to hear from Taylor and was thrilled that she was going through RCIA.
It was only a few hours later as I reflected on the day that I remembered my peculiar experience at Mass and Taylor’s subsequent message. Somehow in the many tasks of the day I completely failed to connect these divine dots. What were the odds that I would have this strange experience at Mass and Taylor would message me hours later? I mean, it had been years since we had last spoken; this was either an extremely bizarre coincidence or had the stamp of God’s curiously strange and exciting providence.
Taylor and I later reflected about the experience and how amazing it was to see God reconnecting us when she was coming into the Church and as I was going through formation of my own. Clearly, we both needed the prayers and the experience was a great source of strength in many ways.
More fun still, Taylor went on to be confirmed in the Church with the name “Elizabeth Ann Seton.” The personal meaning for Taylor is not something that I can completely probe myself, all I know is that both were converts and both were/are mothers. Lastly, Taylor and her husband went on to announce the coming of their first child on the feast day of Elizabeth Ann Seton, although this was not done on purpose, rather turned out to be another twist in the beautiful tapestry of providence. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us!