Susanna Spencer has a masters in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer and the theological editor for Blessed is She, and writes on her own blog Living With Lady Philosophy. She is a homeschooling mother of four and lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota.
It was a cold, icy drive into Detroit on the Feast of Stephen. It had been snowing for two days at my in-laws’ house, but that was not a hindrance for our annual visit to the giant five-story used bookstore in an old warehouse in the city. This year we added a new stop. Since the time of his beatification in November my husband and I had been planning a visit to the St. Bonaventure Chapel in which Bl. Solanus Casey is buried. According to the website the chapel was open that day, while the Center that tells about his life and work was not. We hoped to end a novena to him, asking for his intercession for a special family intention, beside his tomb.
As we approached the site of St. Bonaventure Monastery, the temperature registered in the single digits. We parked across the street, helped our well-bundled children out of the car and crossed the windy street, only to find the doors to the chapel locked. We were just feet from the relics we came to venerate, separated by bricks, mortar and a wooden door. We had made it as far as we could that bitter cold day so we stood on the sidewalk, prayed for our intentions, and trudged through the packed snow back to our car. In the warmth of our family van we prayed the rest of our novena, and then took a short car tour of the cemetery across the street from the monastery.
I brought my intention to my heart again as we pulled out of the cemetery and past the chapel one last time, and I heard the words, Not Yet. We would be back with our intention, we planned, the next time we were in Michigan. But for now we would wait.
The following weekend at Sunday Mass, the second reading was from Hebrews and talked about Abraham leaving his homeland to follow God’s will for him: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.” (Hebrews 11:8)
I felt like our trip to the monastery was similar to Abraham being called out to receive his inheritance. God was to give him many things, but he had to wait many years for them.
We are all called to follow God through faith, even when he tells us, Not Yet. This kind of waiting is not new to me. Again and again in my life in seeking God’s will and praying for the things I desire, he has responded in this way. I have always been desperate to plow ahead into the future for the next thing. But God’s timing is not my timing, and when I have waited for the good things he wants to give me, his timing has always been perfect.
For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
The stinted ending to our pilgrimage to the burial site of Bl. Solanus Casey was not what I had hoped for, not what I had prayed for, not what I had planned. I felt God drawing me there to pray that day, so I went. It was not that he did not hear my prayer, but that he wanted to give me another opportunity to trust. It was a sign of God’s providence showing me what he wants of me now, and Bl. Solanus Casey, while we did not make it into the chapel, is interceding for us, and we are already blessed.
Note: It just so happens that Dec. 26 is one of the few days of the year that was ambiguous about the hours on the website. We probably should have called first, but as millennials we don’t like to make phone calls. Next time we will make sure they are open before we go.