|Does God provide or are we a product of our own doing? |
by The Traveling Shepherd
This is a question many of us wrestle with through history, especially in today’s world that we are creator’s of our own world. I’d like to challenge that idea in this story of providence. This is my short story of how God has provided in the short 2 years I have been associated with the Cross of St. Benedict from my personal experiences with our Lord, to the moments that the Campbell’s and I have shared. The list is long and there’s a good chance like the bible, there will be much left out, but I’d like to capture a glimpse of how great God is when we are fully surrendered to Him uniting our will to His allowing the fullness of His blessings and graces to flow.
( A meme designed to remind us we have help)
My path with the Campbell’s began near the fall of 2013, my friend Brother Francis who had a radical conversion from his way of Christianity to becoming a Catholic Christian had begun to spend time with the Campbell’s. In the process I added Patrick (who is the head of the house) and I figured I would eventually get to know them through Brother Francis. In the mix I added Joy and their son Anthony (who I was connected with through another way). I felt God calling me to know this family for whatever reason it was.
Our interaction first began with a first class relic of St. Elizabeth Anne Seton. Knowing that they home schooled their children I felt this relic would be a blessing for them. I offered to them through Facebook, and after accepting it I left it on their car while they were in mass one day. Shortly after that we had our second connection as I shared some of the holy cards I wrote. I left them on their car again to be passed along to their son Anthony.
Our third interaction despite seeing each other pretty regularly at daily mass since my return to Charlotte in February 2012 was 1/25/14, again through Facebook. I have a tendency to add people on Facebook and trust that eventually God will connect us.
I was set to begin a 2 1/2 week road trip, but due to it being Superbowl week 2014, my boss asked me to wait until after that Sunday to leave. In the mix of waiting, it snowed on the night of St. Thomas Aquinas’ feast day and shortly after coming home I went on Facebook and noticed the Campbell’s had gotten a flat tire and were stranded.
In the south when it snows even in the slightest bit the whole area shuts down. I had messaged them and asked if they still needed help and they did. I went to pick them up and in the process we finally met in person. They shared with me some of their story but due to the time at night I had to leave.
Our relationship from there continue to grow slowly despite to our travels and limited moments. God’s providence would grow even greater in our lives that spring. Upon noticing they were about to attend a gathering of Catholics in Virginia near Newport News where I returned to the Church (after a 15+ year absence) I felt that stir again to invite them to meet my Filipino priest in the Hampton Roads area, and I felt an even greater stir that they should have the first class relic of the True Cross that I had at the time (one of my blessings was 1st class relics which I would share with others as God stirred me).
From the time they saw me wearing the relic during Lent and showed a devotion to it (at the same time I received my Cross of St. Benedict) , to the fact they made St. Benedict’s crosses to protect people it was only appropriate they had a piece of the Cross that protects and saves us all, to bless their ministry and others. Little did I know Joy had been praying for one as I would read in one of her blogs months later. All this was again a fresh reminder of how God provides for us all as he was answering their prayers at the time, and using me, as I asked, in helping others, the tables would soon turn and our roles would reverse as God often does with us in humility we serve each other for the purpose of loving each other, as He loves us, and building the Kingdom through a dependence on our Lord and His people.
(The altar in the room previous to sharing it with others)
After a phenomenal road trip my life would become a bit stagnate for my liking in my career. I stepped down from my role as a manager to pursue full time ministry/apostolate. It became challenging as I was no longer in charge, making a fraction of the money I previously made, working in unproductive environments for my liking. I was ready for a radical change, hoping for one similar to my first year when I returned to the Catholic Church and lived with my uncle who was a Catholic priest, in the retreat house he ran. I wanted to be in that similar environment where all we did was share faith and God moments.
After my first retreat talk March 1st and some more searching the Campbell’s called one evening in May just as I was about to put on a pot of pasta.
They asked if I would like to grab dinner with them and we went for Italian. In the process of our meal they mentioned they had an offer to go to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to re open a retreat house. This was an easy yes and with little hesitation I said “give me a week just to confirm God does not have any other plans, and if nothing happens I know this is where He wants me.” During that week the only resistance I experienced was the worry that my mother might not see me for a couple years. I knew where God was calling me.
As is with anything with do with God there will always be a healthy skepticism in our humility we will question since we know God is the only all knowing One. Upon arriving in Canada I quickly began to see an appreciation of what the Campbell’s do through the “Healing of Families” and their ministry of making crosses. To see those who have strayed in many respects of their faith, including myself, come back to the full understanding of the Church and Her teachings and to find healing through the sacraments Jesus offers us.
As I surrendered more fully to these ideas I found myself returning to a purity and innocence I had grown away from, even in my radical conversion, it’s easy to take God’s grace for granted and abusive his merciful love remaining in self gratifying lifestyles and instant gratification rather than relying on His patient providential love that grows into extraordinary miracles in it’s season and time.
(Our community which Patrick led)
In the mix of all these miracles I was seeing of healing and renewal I also learned how evil and the enemy can prowl. Reality is Satan is alive and real, sadly we sweep him under the rug all too often allowing him to manifest in different areas.
I grew in a deeper understanding of the spiritual warfare that the Cross of St. Benedict and the Campbell’s endure and participate in. During those 3 months I saw how the devil in subtle ways manipulates our environments and those in our lives with lies and insecurity to the point we separate from each other and become divided.
We went from a healthy thriving community of 15 to eventually returning to Charlotte as the 8 we left as. That almost did not happen as well as I saw how the devil tried to get me to leave them on several occasions. I felt it was important that we went to Canada together and that we came back to the U.S.A. together. We did and it was a blessing as they invited me to live with them for several months as we grew closer as a family. This entire time blessed me and showed the grace of unity in the face of attempted division, that God will fill us with the graces to persevere if we are humble enough to move forward together. To an extent this is what we currently battle in the sanctity of marriage and family, to remain a union in defiance to the world’s tolerance to divisive ways which only lead later to emptiness.
(A poem the Traveling Shepherd wrote for the Campbells)
In conclusion to the miracles I have witnessed, from their ministry’s continuous growth in the face of life’s challenges, to the beautiful evolution of Patrick’s artwork in all that his hands create for our Lord, to the pious family which resembles that of St Therese’s family and always has from the first moment I saw them (despite not being it at first, the grace of our Lord has made their lives a testament to God’s love),
God continues to provide for us all as we continue to travel the U.S. sharing our stories of faith and never giving up on that light that burns in us. Their daughter Cierra was another testament to our faith in the Catholic Church as she has felt a call to a specific school for a specific study. Despite the odds and many moments of minimal hope, she was provided with full tuition in the final hours before her departure to this school. She never lost hope despite the possibility she might not be able to attend this school due to her lack of finances at the moment.
(A picture in front of the chapel in Canada along with a prayer for Mary he wrote)
The Traveling Shepherd Profile:
“October 3, 2010 my life changed after moving to another state for another person only to be disappointed I began searching for God. I was raised Roman Catholic, but due to life’s problems and some of the people in the Church I lost faith. For 3 months I questioned everything, and on that day He answered my months of prayers leading me back home to His Catholic Church (after a 14 year absence).
I am still not accepted as I wish I would be, but how do you say no to God who calls (one cannot let man’s short comings dictate their faith). Since then He has put me on a missionaries path of traveling from parish to parish, from state to state evangelizing hope from within.
I am not interested in converting anyone, just simply encouraging them as Luke 11 teaches, “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened.” If you want something to believe in just ask God, He will eventually answer if you are patient enough to pursue Him. My job is simply to encourage those who have become lost, to try again and maybe even share a blessing of God in the process.”