I hate flying on planes; doubly so after a hard week at work on a late flight. Such was the case when I boarded a plane back to Austin a few years ago. Little did I know that my temperament and life was going to change in mid-flight!
I had just settled into my aisle seat. I always get an aisle seat, especially back then when I was a bit north of 250. I had already gotten up one time for the person in the window seat. Now I was spreading out hoping against hope that I could dissuade someone from taking the middle seat. It was not to be.
Near the end of on-boarding, a young clean-cut guy asked if the seat next to me was taken. People were pressing so he was standing directly to the side of me, blocking my way from getting out. I said in an abrupt manner, “I could let you in if you would move and stop blocking my path.” The lady behind him caught my grumpy facial expression, took pity on him, and moved back so I could let him in. Yeah, I thought, I now had a tall occupant with wide shoulders occupying the seat next to me. Fun! Time to lean out in the aisle a little more.
I glanced over to size up my neighbor, since by this time I was feeling a little bad about how I acted. I noticed three things off the bat that were different. First the guy was reading a religious book; something not expected from a young man without a collar. Equally unique was the Miraculous Medal around his neck; something you do not often see except on a Nun. Lastly, I noticed he had a rosary in his lap.
Thinking I had a priest or a seminarian next to me, I began feeling even more sheepish than I did before. So, I decided to try and make amends for the way I acted and strike up a conversation. I reached out my hand to my neighbor and said, “Hey I am sorry about how grumpy I was a moment ago. My name is Don.” He replied his name was Travis Moran and we struck up a conversation.
Wanting to find out more about Travis, I said, “I noticed from the religious book and the rosary that you must be Catholic. I am too, even though a few moments ago I may not have appeared to be. I was just about to listen to a podcast of Father Mike Schmitz. Have you heard of him?” Those who regularly read my blogs know I am a devoted listener to Father Mike Schmitz’s podcasts. He is an excellent speaker whose lessons on life and God are inspired. Travis promptly pulled out his cell phone and showed me a picture of him with Father Mike and others. Travis had just been to the SEEK conference in San Antonio and heard Father Mike and others evangelize. This was the first indication that maybe Travis and my meeting was not by chance.
For the first time in a long time, I decided to talk to the person next to me on the plane. I usually do not like to talk on planes. But this was unbelievable. Travis is an amazing young man. He was discerning to be a priest when he got another calling to be a physical therapist for Special Needs kids in Connecticut. Working with his father and others, he treats autistic and other special needs children at Crossroads Physical Therapy. I was so impressed by his kindness and devotion to God that I was not sure if it was all real so I looked him up (see http://www.quchronicle.com/2011/12/this-is-me-a-man-with-faith/).
I now asked him about book that he was he reading. It was called 33 Days to Morning Glory. He explained that the book was a 33 day retreat to grow closer and consecrate yourself to Jesus through the intercession of Mary. Ok, I thought. A little deep for me but he was so devoted I listened attentively. Maybe God was speaking to me.
We talked for another 20 minutes or so until Travis asked if he could take time out and say his daily rosary. As we closed our conversation, he told me he was praying his daily rosary today for my intention. I thanked him. Later as we left the plane, we shook hands and I told him how much I enjoyed the conversation and prayers. Little did I know that this was not the end of this change that started in mid-flight.
I could not get the conversation with Travis or that book out of my mind on the drive back home. So that night I went on to Amazon and purchased 33 Days to Morning Glory see here https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13559128-33-days-to-morning-glory.
Or so I thought! Instead with at that late hour, I through blurry eyes bought another book: 33 Days to Merciful Love! Noting that I ordered the wrong book, I later bought 33 Days to Morning Glory. After reading a few chapters of each book, I put them aside as work and life distracted me. The original spark faded until several months later, when God broke through again.
I was on a work trip in Raleigh, North Carolina. I could not sleep and got up at 4 O’clock. Wanting to get some restless energy out, I walked the streets of Raleigh with my earbuds in, listening to the latest podcast from Father Mike. It was the opening homily for Lent and as he finished, he told his parishioners at UMD that he had a book for all of them. The book was 33 Days to Merciful Love! Here is the actual podcast with the link to the book https://soundcloud.com/bulldogcatholic/wholehearted-part-i-go-big-be-small I have never felt God’s presence in my life more, as a tingle ran down my spine.
Third time is the charm. I could not ignore the message any longer. I performed both internal retreats covered in the books. At the end, I consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary. It was a life changing experience and though not yet all the way there, those retreats have helped me to grow closer to the Lord. I now hope to bring others closer to Jesus both as a Core Team member with the Life Teen ministry.
I still tear up thinking about this change in Mid-flight and Mid-life. I hope this true-life message inspires you to put down that iPhone on the plane and to be a little more kind to the person in the seat next to you. It just might be God trying to talk to you!