I am known in my family as a sort of dreamer, one who is always “thinking out loud” (much to their dismay), and one who sees a potential miracle in every moment. I like to call incidences that don’t seem to happen by “chance” or that are seeping with synchronicity “God-incidences”. Some cynics would probably roll their eyes when they hear the cliché “everything happens for a reason”, and respond with a “no, it’s just a coincidence”. In those moments I would just smile and say, “Well, I just don’t believe in coincidences, I only believe in God-incidences!
To many things have occurred in my life that when I look back, seem to have been orchestrated for a purpose. Of course, often times it took many months or years for me to recognize that, but certain meanings in situations or problems were eventually made clear. And, of course, there are still things that are frustratingly not made clear yet…but I guess that is where my faith steps in. After all, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)
Last month on our family vacation to Europe, I was in London exploring the city by myself. My family had all split up wanting to experience different sites, so I took a cab from Harrods to the National Art Gallery where the Van Gough “Sunflowers” was on exhibit. I have always been drawn to the art of Van Gough, as it seems to fluctuate between intense, dark sorrow, and bright, passionate, transcendental joy. “Starry Night” is a favorite of mine. His art has a dreamy spiritual quality to it. I have read that early in his life he had been a preacher, and later on in his life he suffered with mental illness. Both of which are obvious factors that helped to influence & deepen his artistic expression.
So here is where my “God-incidence” comes in. While I was on the trip I had read a book, titled “Miracle Detective” by Randall Sullivan. I had downloaded it on my Nook while I was on the cruise ship. On the cover of the book there is a beautiful vibrant colored painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I had never seen this image of Mary before seeing it on the cover of this book. The painting depicts her reverently and serenely bowing her head with her delicate hands gently clasped in prayer. I had felt drawn to look at the cover periodically while I was reading it, as it helped me to feel closer to her and to God. I was thinking about looking up online who the artist was, because I liked it so much, but I never found the time.
So, there I was in the London National Art Gallery walking quickly through the gallery rooms, trying to find an exit, so I could make it back in time to the hotel to meet the rest of the family for dinner. I had just seen Van Gough’s art and some of the other impressionism pieces, when I stopped a museum guide to ask where an exit was. As I was going in that direction, I pleasantly noticed that I was strolling through a huge religious art gallery room. I took my time, as this form of art is a favorite of mine, when all of a sudden, at the end of the room, a very unique & exquisite painting completely stopped me in my tracks. I stood there in front of it with my jaw dropped to the floor, feeling such an amazing sense of awe and wonder.
So can you guess which painting it was? Yep, it was THE original one of Mary that was on the cover of the book that I had just finished a couple days before. There are only 3 or 4 versions of it in the world, and the other 3 versions are all more drab in color. This particular version portrays Mary’s mantle with very deep and vibrant blues and reds. It was painted by an Italian artist named Sassoferrato from 1640-1650, and is titled, “The Virgin in Prayer”. The perfect timing of how I “accidently” found the painting a couple days after reading the book, was most definitely a God- incidence for me! I actually even posted the book on Facebook the day before I not so “randomly bumped into it” in the museum.
As I stood soaking in the tremendous grace and beauty of this inspiring piece of art, I felt in intense surge of deep gratitude and love for the Blessed Mother and Our Lord. It felt like Mary was just saying, “Hi..I love you!” in a very simple, yet profound way, confirming my hope and belief that she has always been my heavenly guide and mother. It helped me to feel in a very real way, that she is constantly watching out for me and interceding my prayers for me, as she is for all of us, if we simply just ask her to.
The book “Miracle Detective” is an informative and inspiring memoir written by a past Rolling Stone magazine editor, who was interested in researching how the Catholic Church investigates alleged holy visions. It is a deeply moving book that follows 9 long years of his extensive research and eventual profound spiritual conversion. When he began the process, he was a non-believer. He was purely interested from a writer/researcher perspective. His spiritual experiences and discoveries eventually led him to develop a very real and lasting faith.
I love the last line in the book, as he sums up what faith and love for God is ultimately all about.
“All this time, I thought, all this effort, and all I had demonstrated to myself was that I could not live without God’s love, and that the only way I knew to get it was to love him back. I looked up at the light sparkling on Oregon pine needles and saw rosebushes blooming in Texas. It was a miracle, I knew, even if I could never prove it. All I had to do was ask.”
“Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened.” Matthew 7:7-8