Was God Already There When the Water Overflowed?

God is always with us. We just have to surrender to him.

Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, is the seat of the Bishop of Orange.
Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, is the seat of the Bishop of Orange. (photo: Felipe Sanchez / Shutterstock)

The only time in my entire life that I caused a bathtub to overflow, the hotel maid had brought us a ridiculous number of towels the previous day. I had just prayed the refrain from the Surrender Novena the night before in front of the Blessed Sacrament, “Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.” All the extra towels brought into our room were exactly what I needed at that moment.

Coincidence? Or was God a step ahead of me?

My friend Monica Hannan and I were attending a Catholic leadership conference hosted by the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative called The Hour of the Laity at Christ Cathedral in the Diocese of Orange. Mixing inspiring Catholic speakers with our Eucharistic Lord — at Mass, in procession and in adoration — made it a spectacular and supernatural weekend. 

It felt especially profound as I contrasted this conference with another I had just bowed out of, set for the following weekend — a secular conference with co-workers. No doubt there would be good people and topics, but on the heels of such a Catholic conference, the holes would have felt gaping. As it was, I had been trying to navigate how to get to Sunday Mass amid return travel. Eventually, I decided the second conference was not for me. The contrast increased my appreciation of the compelling talks on taking our Catholic faith into the world against the tide, but doing it with love, confidence, Catholic truth and Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. It was at the end of the second day of talks that we had Eucharistic adoration before a mariachi band and an award dinner. 

While kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament I tapped into the Novena of Surrender refrain, said after each of the nine days of prayer: “Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.” The Novena composed by Servant of God Father Dolindo Ruotolo has spread like wildfire in recent years, comforting through prayer, a release of the burdens of both today and tomorrow. 

Father Dolindo, a Franciscan priest born in Naples, Italy, died at age 88 on Nov. 19, 1970. He was a contemporary of Padre Pio and was renowned for his holiness and inspirational writings. His cause for canonization is being promoted by the Archdiocese of Naples and the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina once said to a group of pilgrims from Naples: “Why do you come here, if you have Don Dolindo in Naples? Go to him, he’s a saint!” 

Back to the towels. Being in an era when hotels don’t always do daily housekeeping, I called the front desk.

“Can we get four towels to room 407?” 

“Sure, four?” 

“Thank you. Yes, four.”

“We can’t get someone up there right away.”

“That’s fine. We’re all set for the day. Someone can just drop them off whenever.”

“Okay. Four towels. Someone will bring them later.”

After an inspiring day at the conference, we walked into the room to find my bed piled with nine bath towels and a large number of hand towels, bathmats and washcloths.

What on earth? We laughed at the ridiculousness of it. Why did someone bring so many towels? I moved them to the desk and top of the refrigerator, where they took up a lot of space.

The next morning, I started a bath and became distracted on my computer until I heard the sound of water, not dripping, but pouring over the side of the tub, quickly covering up the small bathroom floor. I waded through the water to turn off the faucet and reached through the overflowing tub to open the drain.

In that instant, I felt the care of God. I needed lots of towels like never before. I had lots of towels like never before. I grabbed several large ones and threw them on the floor where they quickly absorbed the water. Problem solved.

Should I chalk it up to coincidence? When there are no odds, I go with God. And that was the heart of the conference: going with God in the fullness of our faith. From the workplace to home and the public square, and in my case that morning, even to a hotel bathroom, God is with us. It’s up to us to surrender to him so that we will be with him too, everywhere we go.