Coincidence and God


By Father Joseph Breighner

It was one of those mystical, magical moments. There was one of those “pop-up” storms at the counseling center in Ellicott City. The rain was coming down in torrents, thunder was clapping, lighting flashing. But, on the other side of the clouds, the sun was shining brightly! As I stood watching with one of the counselors at the door to the office, suddenly a rainbow appeared in the sky. I watched it for a while, and walked away.

A few minutes later I went back to the same door, and a counselee was standing at the door. There was the same rain, the same light, but this time something was different. The rainbow landed right in the parking lot. I had never seen the end of a rainbow before! It landed right on one of the cars in the parking lot. I said to the counselee: “I wonder whose car that is?” She replied: “It’s mine!” Then she ran through the rain toward her car. I called out to her: “Be sure to look for a pot of gold in, or around, your car!” Unfortunately, there was no pot of gold. At least no pot of gold she shared with me.

As I pondered this once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the end of a rainbow, I realized that if I had come to the door a minute earlier, or a minute later, I would have missed the entire scene. This “coincidence” (I believe coincidence is when God remains anonymous) was one of God’s gifts.

Not long before this I had arrived at the door of the rectory where I live, and as I opened the door someone came out carrying something. It was perfect timing. We couldn’t have scheduled it as perfectly. I was there at the exact moment the door needed to be opened. We both laughed at the coincidence.

Shortly after that, during one of my weekend retreats, one of the deacons told me his story. He was a diabetic, and had forgotten his needles. He drove home to get them, and as he arrived home, his phone was ringing. Wondering if he should answer the phone or not, risking interrupting his weekend retreat, he decided to pick the phone up. It was a family calling him to let him know that, one of the people he brought Holy Communion to each week had been rushed to the hospital. The deacon went to the hospital immediately.

Afterward the deacon said to me in astonishment: “If I hadn’t forgotten my needles I would not have been home to get that call. It was all so perfect.” Coincidence is when God remains anonymous.

I tell those stories to encourage you to look at similar experiences in your life. I like to believe that there is an “invisible hand,” an “invisible Love” always guiding the moments of our lives.

Yes, I can hear the challenges to such a belief. “Where was God when you had those strokes in your eyes, Father Joe? You’ve lost so much of your vision!” I usually respond: But one neuro-ophthalmologist told me I should be blind. “When you have strokes in both eyes, you should be blind.” I had strokes in 2002 and I’m not blind!

“But where was God when you had pulmonary embolisms in 2008 – blood clots in your lungs.” I usually respond: “Yes, one medical professional told me I should have died. But I’m not dead!” Even in the midst of tragedies we can “see” this invisible hand of love!

And, yes, I know that one day my mortal life, and all of our mortal lives, will end. There will be a day when my “earthly tent will be folded” as St. Paul said. And that will be the day, that all the “miracles” and “coincidences” of life will point toward the greatest miracle – not just miraculous moments in this life, but the miracle of eternal life.

As St. Paul so eloquently reminded us: “The last enemy to be defeated is death!” Death died on the cross. And at the moment of death, we will no longer need to perceive God by His presence in the coincidences of our lives. Then we shall see God face to face. Something even better than a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow!

Copyright (c) Sept. 4, 2012

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.