Isaiah tells us that the day will come when our Teacher will No longer hide Himself, but with our own eyes we shall see Him, while from behind, a voice shall sound in our ears: "This is the way; walk in it," when we might otherwise turn to the right or to the left.
We all have our plans. But Our Lady—Our Lady of the Snows—she has her own plans, and when our plans and her plans don’t match up, she has a way getting what she wants. I thought I was coming to Irondale, Alabama to give a retreat. Turns out, her plan was for me to have a snowball fight with five Franciscans. I can’t say I saw that coming. Literally. The snowball hit me in the back of the head. And I learned an important life lesson: Never turn your back on a Franciscan.
But I can take some consolation in knowing that sometimes even the Saints have their plans derailed. As the story goes…in order to avoid being delayed by the Virgin, Juan Diego chose another route around the hill where she had first appeared to him…but “the Virgin intercepted him and asked where he thought he was going…”
That’s my favorite part of the story. The roses blooming amid the snow, the miraculous cure, the vision of Mary—these things don’t happened to me. But an irritating detour, an awkward conversation with my mother and a stain on my shirt…now that story sounds familiar. Because even after 21 years in a monastery, I still insist on doing things my way. And I’ve learned through trial and error that when I insist on doing things my way, what usually happens is that I repeat someone else’s mistakes.
Frank Sinatra had it totally wrong. If you really want a full life, don’t do it your way, follow the Way see. This requires a healthy sense of your limitations. You have to be humble enough to admit that there is someone in the world smarter than yourself.
The first time I decided to leave the monastery, I knocked on the door of my novicemaster’s cell and delivered the sad news.
“Okay,” he said, “are you leaving today?”
“In that case, just for today, you should be the very best monk you can. Then tomorrow you leave.”
To everyone’s surprise, I followed his advice, and I’ve been leaving tomorrow for 21 years. And I can tell you with absolute sincerity, I am a happy monk.
So let us resolve, just for today, to wrap ourselves in the warm mantle of Our Lady and to be the best Christians we possibly can. Then tomorrow, I’ll sneak up behind Father Leonard and even the score.