Sunday, August 7, 2011

God Kept Me From Going to Mass?!

Yesterday, about 6:00 p.m., we stopped our RV at a toll booth outside Pittsburgh. Then the alternator failed. My son-in-law maneuvered us to the side of the Interstate, roughly a thousand feet away. Doing so burned out the emergency start cable, but put us in a slightly safer position. Also one where a tow truck wouldn't have as much trouble picking us up.

I wrote about that event in my Through One Dad's Eye blog.

"Providential?" Maybe

It's a good thing that the alternator gave out at that particular point. Our plan had been to have #2 daughter take over driving around that time: which would have had her behind the wheel when one of the front tires blew out. Maybe both. Those tires had worn out since we set out for Pennsylvania. Much more quickly than expected.

Looking at the happy coincidence that kept us from a highway-speed blowout, I could have said: "It's providential!" I didn't, partly because I've been around too many folks who say that sort of thing. A lot. And, in my opinion, often inappropriately.

Take, for example, the (hypothetical) woman who's wondering if some man is 'Mr. Right.' Her friend is happily married to a man from, say, Ohio. The possible 'Mr. Right' is also from Ohio. The woman, elated, says: "It's providential!"

Maybe: But I'm inclined to think her maybe-beau being from Ohio is more of a coincidence.

On the other hand, our alternator failing in time for us to notice overly-worn tires - and before #2 daughter took the wheel - was a possibly-life-saving coincidence. She has sterling qualities, but none of my daughters have have experience as truck drivers. My son-in-law does.

Am I going to say "it's providential" that he was behind the wheel when the alternator stopped? Particularly since that got us off the road before one or both front tires blew out? I'm not sure. But I thanked God for getting us out of that situation, anyway.

Like bumper-sticker theology puts it: coincidence is God's way of performing miracles anonymously.

Here's what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about divine providence:
"The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: 'Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.'162 And so it is with Christ, 'who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.'163 As the book of Proverbs states: 'Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.'164"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 303)

"Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children's smallest needs: 'Therefore do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" . . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.'167"
(Catechism, 305)
There's more, about providence and:
  • Secondary causes (Catechism, 306-308)
  • The scandal of evil (Catechism, 309-314
And there's more. There always seems to be more.

Bottom line? Looks like it's reasonable to think that divine providence was involved in letting us find out about those about-to-blow tires when we did. Not that I think we're supposed to assume that God will take care of vehicle maintenance for us, like some celestial chauffeur. And that's another topic.

Missing Mass, Getting a Grip

We'd planned to celebrate Mass with a parish in Steubenville, Ohio. Spending part of Saturday evening on an Interstate shoulder, and then Saturday night and part of Sunday morning in a parking in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, made that impossible. I'm disappointed about missing our Sunday obligation, but not all that upset. Certainly not considering that we may have avoided a very serious accident.

All three of us are practicing Catholics. That means we're supposed to celebrate Mass with our fellow-Catholics weekly. If possible.
  • Is a Catholic's Sunday obligation important?
  • Is missing Mass on Sunday unforgivable?
    • No (Catechism, 2185)
We hadn't celebrated Mass on Sunday because the Pep Boys parking lot was close to a street, a road, and a Chinese buffet/Hooters, but not all that much else. As far as we knew, there wasn't a parish withing walking distance: and even if there was, I was stuck in the RV. The stairs that make it possible for me to get in and out are powered by the engine - which wasn't working.

We didn't plan to be stuck in that parking lot, I figure God knows that, so like I said: I'm not all that upset.

Was it "providential" that we failed to meet our Sunday obligation today? That feels less likely - but I suppose it's possible. Speculating about that involves so many 'what ifs' and 'maybes,' though, that I don't think there's much point in trying to figure out what God was up to.

What were folks who live in North Dakota and Minnesota doing in a Pennsylvania parking lot? I've posted about that before.

More about the trade show and me:
Related posts:

1 comment:

Brigid said...

Stutter: "none of my daughters have have experience"

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