A few years ago, I asked a retired parish priest from Washington, D.C., Fr. Don Worch, if he had any advice for my priesthood.
He smiled, thought for a moment and responded by saying, “Fr. Michael, I have learned over the years, the key to a fruitful priesthood is to not get in God’s way. Allow Him to work through you, and try not to mess up His plan.”
St. Paul, perhaps the most qualified and effective apostle of all time, understood this truth so well, as he reminds us, "I can do all things in Him in whom I put my trust" (Philippians 4:13) and "I am who I am through the grace of God" (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Human qualities certainly help, but in our self-sufficient culture, we need to be reminded again and again, in the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, "We are all pencils in the hands of God."
Several years ago, I was helping out with a youth program in Northern Virginia and we would often do faith-based surveys on various topics. We did one on the culture of life in the Reston Town Center, and we had some pamphlets to give out regarding abortion.
One of the high school boys approached a young couple sitting on a park bench, and began talking to them about having respect for human life before being turned away.
But then, just as he started to walk away, they asked him to come back. They looked at each other, and the man said these words, "We are not married, and we are both amazed that you are coming around with this information just at this time. My girlfriend is pregnant, and we were discussing the possibility of having an abortion, and then you appeared. This must be a sign from God. We will take a good look at this information that you have given us. Thank you for coming over!"
I still wonder if that baby was born because we decided to do the survey that day.
I received an email from a young man last year who attended one of our lacrosse camps at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland:
"Fr. Michael, you may not remember me, but I attended one of your lacrosse camps about 10 years ago. I was feeling a little down after one of the practices one day, and you came over to motivate me and share a few insights that really picked me back up. Then you pulled a rosary out of your pocket and encouraged me to say at least a decade every day, asking me to trust that the Blessed Mother would watch over me. I still have that rosary, and your advice continues to be helpful today."
I cannot remember what I told that young man, but I am certainly glad that I did not get in God's way.
During one of my lunch stops on the road at Burger King, I said a little blessing before the meal and made the sign of the cross over the food. At that particular moment, a car was going through the drive-thru, and the driver had his window down and was looking right at me as I made the sign of the cross.
He stopped his car and came in to thank me, saying, "Father, I can't thank you enough for your special blessing as I was driving past you. I am going through a really rough patch right now, and your blessing meant the world to me. Thank you!"
God's providential love is on overdrive, and He wants to touch so many people through your daily acts of love. Listen to His inspirations and go with it, trusting in the power of His grace working in you and in those souls He wants to touch through you. Try your best not to get in God's way.
Fr. Michael Sliney, LC, is a Catholic priest who is the New York chaplain of the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders.