The famous author Gilbert K. Chesterton supposedly once said, “Coincidences are God’s way of staying anonymous.” Some have told me they have no time for coincidences and even regard them as unimportant. There may have been a time when I might have agreed with them. But since a “conversion” to the stewardship way of life, coincidences have become cherished experiences for which I thank God. And rightly so! While God stays anonymous, coincidences are ways God interacts with the world He created. Are we not grateful for this mysterious intervention?
I first read this quote in The Catholic Spirit, the diocesan newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The article was about an acquaintance of mine from the seminary. Fr. Peter Christianson had been a few years ahead of me, but now had been named and ordained a bishop assigned to the Diocese of Superior, Wis. He recalled G.K. Chesterton’s quote at his ordination to the episcopacy and, since then, I also have relied on the wisdom of that statement. When it comes to the stewardship way of life, that statement couldn’t be truer.
As I continue to witness the grace-filled effects of the stewardship way of life on others, especially here at my parish, St. John the Apostle in Minot, N.D., as well as on my own life, it is definitely God’s hand at work in our lives of faith. If some may identify a coincidence as a “surprise blessing” that lifts the spirits and draws one closer to gratefulness to God, then how can we deny that, in those circumstances, God isn’t giving us the grace to live and celebrate our faith? So, let’s celebrate the coincidences!
Celebrate the “coincidence” that this famous author converted to Catholicism late in his life, yet wrote book after book affirming and defending the Catholic Faith long before his conversion. Five years after Gilbert K. Chesterton joined the Catholic Church, he wrote a phenomenal book called The Catholic Church and Conversion. In my opinion, it is the best work on conversion to Catholicism I have read; however, it is also a wonderful description of conversion to the stewardship way of life. For, the same experiences, or “coincidences,” apply when we find ourselves curious and then drawn into the understanding, practice and expression of discipleship, known to us as “stewardship.”
Chesterton describes conversion in three steps.
“The convert takes his first step rather unwittingly when he decides he’s going to be fair to the Catholic Church,” he says. “He does not think the Roman religion is true, but for the first time, he also doesn’t think that the accusations against the Church are true.” The convert to stewardship must also dispel the “myths of stewardship” and give it a chance.
The first step of conversion to Catholicism then leads to a long and enjoyable second step, which is the utter fascination of learning what the Catholic Church really does teach. Chesterton says, “It is like discovering a new continent full of strange flowers and fantastic animals, which is at once wild and hospitable.” For the stewardship convert, it is recognizing that stewardship is a practical way of living the gospel. It makes sense, and others are doing it with joy and passion. What they have, the convert also wants.
Then, the convert to Catholicism suddenly realizes with a shock that he can no longer be detached and impartial about the Catholic Church. He must belong! The convert to the stewardship way of life realizes this is the way he or she wants to live… and makes the decision and commitment to do so.
If this were not true of what Christ has called us to be, I would not be writing this article today. If this were not true of our fascination with and commitment to stewardship, you may not be reading this article today. And, if this were not true of a “stewardship parish,” such as St. John the Apostle Church, we would not be the “faithful stewards” we are today. Wouldn’t you also agree it is a “coincidence” to thank God for each day of our lives?