Providential Accidents

I’ve started talking with a Protestant reader via e-mail about the Eucharist: what the Early Church Fathers believed, whether that belief was consistent with the New Testament, and whether the New Testament’s depiction is supported by the Old Testament.

I decided to send him a copy of Fr. James O’Connor’s The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist, because it’s probably the best book I’ve read on the subject of what the Church Fathers believed.  The first half of the book is almost exclusively lengthy quotes from the Fathers themselves, with helpful notes added by Fr. O’Connor to explain confusing passages.  He even personally translated one of Augustine’s homilies on the subject into English for the first time. The book is a pretty easy read (particularly considering the subject), while the footnotes are chock full of scholarly information for those seeking to delve even deeper (for example, he’ll often have footnotes explaining why he translated something one way instead of another).

While I already own the book, given the choice between (a) shipping him my copy to ship back, and (b) just buying him a used copy off of Amazon, option (b) seemed easier. The first time I went to purchase a copy of the book, though, I accidentally sent it to myself (my default Amazon shipping address), and couldn’t seem to fix it before it shipped.  So in addition to buying him the book, I also bought myself an extra copy of the book.

 Then, on Sunday, we were having brunch after church, and my friend Ryan had his copy of the book (I’ll go ahead and point out that this was a strange coincidence). John, a seminarian friend who was in town, mentioned how much he’d been wanting to read it.

But since John was going back to New York right away, it didn’t make sense to try and borrow Ryan’s copy.  Suddenly, my extra copy was incredibly handy. After explaining what had happened a few nights earlier, we organized a grand swap: Ryan gave his copy to John, and I’ll be giving one of my two copies to Ryan. It all worked out beautifully, and all by Providential accident.

I find that these sort of accidents happen quite often: where through some seemingly random event or even my own mistakes, God is able to draw some benefit: seemingly random things come together perfectly in a way where His Design can be briefly glimpsed.  Anyone else have any stories to share about the work of the “Providential accidents” in their own lives?


  1. I really thought this post was going in the “whoever posts a comment first gets a free copy of O’Connor’s book” direction, but my disappointment was abated by your bright-hearted story. As a student of medicine, I enjoy seeing my biochemistry as an orchestra of providential accidents. It’s good for me to glory in the incomprehensibility of it.

    Maybe I ought to pick up the book, too, just to see what happens.

    Peace and hope.


  2. I have an eerie tendency to think of a hilarious seinfeld bit on the same day that the episode containing said bit comes on the late night syndication I watch…. Reluctantly, I admit that this is *probably* not Providential, or really even an accident now that I think about it. It still creeps me out though. I may need to give up on long since finished sitcoms.

  3. Accident or not, I don’t know – though I rather suspect not – yesterday I learned a RCIA friend of mine had returned from Ecuador, had gotten married, and wife was with child. He & I had talked about me possibly visiting sometime, but lo, here he was! I reestablished connection w him & his wife, who gave me his new number. I called to set a time for us to meet, though I had scheduled myself to work late. Providence seemed evident enough, when after our conversation, my caseload went rather quickly, so I was able to meet him early. I was SO happy!

  4. Reading recommendation duly noted.

    On divine providence, alright, I’ll bite. If you have [happy] tears, prepare to shed them now:

    I was in a taxi, on the way to visit a friend in upstate New York, on April 15,and the driver mentioned there was a man going round saying the end of the world was coming on May 22. (He, the taxi-driver, thought the world might have another forty years. I, Reformed christian, sighed over nutcase dispensationalism.)

    Back in New Zealand, on May 22, I clicked on New Zealand Conservative, and found an American (you) had left a comment asking us, very kindly, if we were perishing in fire and water. We weren’t, but I was very angry with Camping, since in this neck of the woods we have good reason to be very nervous of earthquakes right now. I also spent some time musing on why Protestantism lurches from Camping to Geering (our local apostate Prot), and added Shameless Popery to my bookmarks.

    About May 31 you posted, including a link to Called to Communion, and because you mentioned the word “Reformed” I clicked on that. On June 1, I emailed my friend in NY, saying, “I think I’ve found the site with the answers to all my questions.”

    I spent a busy three days reading and digesting “The Canon Question”, “Ecclesial Deism” and “The Visible Church” and the first couple hundred comments of each, and on June 3, I emailed her again, “I think I have to become a Catholic. I can’t believe I just typed that.”

    So, with the additional blessing of some wonderful reading group friends, and a young man who asked a very good question at a critical juncture, that’s how the story arc goes; but I’d still be hesitating had it not been for CTC, SP, and, oddly, gloriously, Harold Camping.

    I’m in RCIA now.

    Best wishes to you and yours.

  5. Not sure if this was a providential accident or not…but it was providence…

    When my wife and I first moved to Idaho I was working at the U of I and it just wasn’t going well. After six months we parted ways, I was able to walk away saying I quit they were able to move on…They gave me a small bit of severance so that I was still getting paid when I walked into my new job.

    Nothing much just working at the local Safeway, meanwhile my wife was pregnant during all of this. When my son was born, he had lots of medical issues (read all of that story on my blog) and my new coworkers and friends at Safeway were the absolute right people to be around as they did so much to help us out.

    Meanwhile during all the fundraisers and everything else I saw one former colleague from the U and no one else so much as called.

    Wow that was long sorry to hijack, Joe.

  6. Otepoti,

    Wow! What an amazing story, and I’m so grateful to have played a part in it. I actually remember the comment you’re talking about — it was an off-handed joke which I’d somewhat regretted later.

    It’s just like Him to let me prattle on for paragraphs, and then use a one-line joke and a link to another blog to actually accomplish His Will.

    I can’t get over the fact that He made such worthy use of (1) a crazy apocalyptic preacher, and (2) a dumb joke I made. Real life reads like Flannery O’Connor sometimes. And what a wonderful example of a Providential mistake.

    By the way, have you told any of the folks at Called to Communion about this? I’m sure they’d be honored to know.

    And last but not least, God bless you as you go through RCIA. Hopefully I can be of some assistance (even inadvertantly) if you encounter some bumps along the way. Welcome home!


  7. Michael, I’m so thankful that you ended up where you needed to be. Seeing how God works through seemingly bad events (like a job not working out) just gives us so much more reason to trust him.

    Your blog is also a great testament to the trials and triumphs you’ve faced as Tommy’s dad. God bless,


  8. Michael, last time I saw your name here, I clicked through to your blog (nice wallpaper!) and spent some time in prayer for you and your family. I’ll pray for you all again today.

    Every blessing to you and your family.

    Joe, thank you! I will thank the CTC bloggers, but privately.

    It gets better: the first Sunday Mass I went to, it was the Octave of Christian Unity,and the day my former Session put me under discipline, the Gospel was “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.”



  9. I have dozens of “provident” stories, but my favorite concerns a rosary whose links, by God’s providence had turned from silver to golden — but that not my story.

    One night I stopped to pray in front of the abortion clinic on my way home. The rosary was tangled in my pocket and in getting it out the crucifix became detached, and I couldn’t find the metal strip which had held them together. I looked in my pockets and around the ground, but it was gone. A few days later, after a particularly bad day and sudden bad news, I didn’t feel like stopping for the rosary, but felt like stopping at the bar. But with a deep sigh stopped for the rosary again. I prayed not only for an end to abortion that night, but also that I might better bear the pains entering my life. Then, on the way back to my car, I was walking dejectedly with my head down when I saw a bright glistening spot on the sidewalk. It was the strip of gold metal from my rosary.

    My sight is poor, and I shouldn’t have been able to see that tiny strip of metal, but the gold color and the sun at just the right angle made it glisten. How provident.

    My night was much improved from that point on. My problems seemed much smaller.

  10. God has been so good to me, revealing His Providence right when I needed it. Two quick examples, both of which helped lead my wife and I to get married…

    1) Early in our relationship, we both attended a summer music camp in North Carolina. She was Baptist, so I was extra sure to attend Mass every week as a good example. One week, I thought I had missed my ride by being late and fell into a kind of panic and despair. Turns out, a counselor was able to drive me to a different church for an evening Mass, where I and eventually my wife first learned about the Divine Mercy. (The line from that evening’s homily which I will never forget: “All fear separates us from the love of God.”) My wife later recounted how learning about St. Faustina was a major turning point in her conversion to Catholicism.

    Sorry, but I can’t help a second story…

    2. Sometime that same summer, I decided to pray for our relationship by praying all 15 decades of the rosary (I’m dating myself…) before the blessed Sacrament in a novena to St. Therese. This was the first time I had ever prayed with such intensity. Early on, I asked if St. Therese would ask Mary if she could return one of the roses I was laying at the throne of Jesus. (I was really trusting that St. Therese would provide me a rose, but had no idea how she was going to do it.) About four days into the novena, I experienced such boredom and distraction that I almost got up and left. However, a lady soon came in, saw me, and asked to speak with me when I was done praying. She explained that she had only missed her early morning holy hour twice. The first time, she was angry with God until she arrived late to be able to talk a girl out of an abortion. The second time, she trusted God, and when she saw me, she heard God say I was the reason she had missed praying that morning. She explained that she had just come back from a pilgrimage where she had been present during a Marion apparition, and then she was suddenly arrested in prayer with her eyes closed. A few moments later, her eyes opened and she told me that Mary had blessed some rosaries during that apparition and she was supposed to give one to me.

    To this day, even as I write these words, I am amazed by God’s Providence in my life.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Joe, and for inviting us to share ours!

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