“God moves in a mysterious way. His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.”
William Cowper 1779
I thought about that quote as I sat at the 10:30 mass last Sunday at St. Pius.
Pure laziness had brought us to this mass. We normally attend the 9:00 a.m. mass at St. Therese but decided to linger a little while over our pancakes and mosey over to a later service at a neighboring parish.
As it happened, an adventurous pilgrimage also delivered three busloads of teenagers to this particular mass, and a cool call to service brought a delightful young family of missionaries as well.
I spent a good part of the mass looking around in wonder and thanking God that all of us had converged.
Later, I spoke to Daniel Aragon, one of the chaperones on the Green Bay Diocese March for Life road trip that spent nearly 24 hours stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He also spoke of the God’s mysterious ways.
“Either I didn’t read God’s email, or He didn’t tell us, but I think maybe God planned all along that we would end up at that mass on Sunday,” he said. “I think He wanted all those young people to hear that there are other vocations and different ways to live their lives in faith…Had we left five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, we would have ended up in a totally different place on that turnpike.”
Instead, they arrived in Appleton just in time to attend mass and listen to young missionaries Jacob and Calena Rudd speak about their upcoming trip to Nicaragua to work in a settlement there.
It turned out to be the perfect coda to a weekend of faith that could have stalled in the Pennsylvania mountains, but instead gathered steam.
The group made its first adjustment to the weekend plans Friday night. In light of an approaching historic snowstorm, Aragon and the rest of the chaperones met with the priests and bus drivers and decided to leave Washington D.C. a day early. As they approached the Somerset, Pennsylvania exit, only about an inch of snow had fallen and they were poised to make it past Pittsburgh ahead of the storm.
Thanks to an accident five or six miles in front of them that shut down the interstate, they ended up stranded for 23 hours and 15 minutes although, according to Aragon, stranded is a deceptive word.
“When people hear the word stranded, it sounds like we were alone, lost and in the middle of nowhere and no one knew where we were,” he said. “This couldn’t be further from our situation.”
With plenty of food, water, heat and bathroom facilities on board, the students and their chaparones made the best of their situation. Many went to help clear off cars and semis nearby, and invited drivers to join them on their bus. As they relayed information the National Guard provided them, they also listened to stories.
“It was really amazing. Some people were trapped for 24 hours and they were only five or six miles from their destination,” Aragon said.
One man in a rental car borrowed a cell phone charger. No one thought anything about it until the buses were freed and the group stopped at a restaurant to refresh themselves as best they could.
“When we parked our bus the man was there and he had the charger in his hand. He was looking for the student who had given it to him,” Aragon said. “Those are the kinds of things that happened. People were so thankful for the help they received from other people.”
The lessons of faith and love proved invaluable and, though they wore the same clothes they’d marched in 46 hours earlier, the group themselves had evolved by the time they arrived back in Appleton.
“You feel the hand of God playing there,” Aragon said.
(The following pictures are courtesy of the Green Bay Diocese)