Every year the kids and I make Valentines to take to Mass and pass out afterward. We’ve had so many amazing interactions with all sorts of people as a result of this family tradition, it’s something that we actively look forward to each year. Imagine my JOY when I realized that Valentine’s Day actually fell on Ash Wednesday this year? Wow, that is the best gift ever!
We are going to be out of town for Valentine’s this year. It’s not the first time and it’s kind of fun to surprise people you don’t know and who really can’t repay you…because, that’s the point. We’re trying to do something nice without any thought of repayment. That’s being the face of God to others…that’s our mission here behind the veil. Kindness for the sake of kindness.
It’s been nagging at me, though. Yes, it is nice to give to others you don’t know. At the same time, however, there are people who actually look forward to our Valentines and their joy would not be fulfilled if, somehow, we missed their local delivery. So, we’ve been working on trip stuff (and Valentines to take) but we’ve also been making Valentines to give away before we leave.
Yesterday morning was a perfect storm of sleet/snow and general mess. All the schools were canceled. Our eldest had her standing date to read at Mass but I was thinking seriously that it would be more prudent to stay home. When I mentioned that at breakfast, our youngest got a very sad face and said, “I just want to go somewhere HOLY.” (I don’t take offense…I understand there is holy-Church and holy-home…different things). So, with that encouragement, we made our plan and headed out.
We were happy to see all the people who also made it through the storm to celebrate Holy Mass and we were happy we brought a nice stack of Valentines. As often is the case, many people remarked at how thoughtful we were and how nice it was. It wasn’t until we walked out of church, however, that we realized why God had us distribute at this Mass, today.
A middle-aged gentleman came out the door a few paces after us and said, “Dominic! My new friend! Thank you again!” I turned and looked at my eldest son who had a nice smile but said nothing. The man continued, “He didn’t tell you?” When I shook my head, he filled us in.
The man is from a town almost an hour away but came to this area to drop his daughter at work this morning because of the storm. He said he had been driving up and down the roads, looking for a Catholic church to attend around noon. His close friend had just died very unexpectedly and he wanted to offer Mass for him today. He finally found our parish, pulled in and had a very emotional Mass, during which he prayed to God, “Please help me, please, if you can, send me something so I know that Dominic is ok.” His friend’s name was Dominic.
After Mass, our kids dispersed to hand out their Valentines and our Dominic handed one of his to this dear man. “Son, what is your name?” When he was told, it was immediately clear to this man that his prayer had been answered. Tears. All of us. Our God is AWESOME.
None of this is about our family. We don’t have anything that makes us more special than any of you who read this. Many of you have more and different gifts to share. The point of this entire story is that, if you let the Holy Spirit guide you, if you have an idea about doing something nice, even if it sounds out of your area of comfort, go with it. He will not leave you and He will not disappoint. Your experience may be commonplace or it my be extraordinary but you will be amazingly blessed to take part in His work on earth. Let this be the Lent that you open your heart to opportunities – they are there in abundance. Say “yes” to God’s urge to help others, to deny yourself, to go outside of your comfort zone. Do His will. It is an incredible gift.