In 2004, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity: my college, the Franciscan University of Steubenville had a satellite campus in Gaming, Austria (with the ‘a’ of “balmy,” not “gaming” like Minecraft, sadly.) Students that could afford a plane ticket didn’t have to pay any extra fees to stay, and we could get cheap student rates on train fare over there. Like I said, the opportunity of a lifetime.

One of the places we visited was Assisi, and as an enormous fan of St Francis I was dying to go. I’ll be honest though: I was stuck in my discernment of priesthood, and I thought that God would certainly “propose” I become a Franciscan in Assisi. Surely, that’s why he was so silent.

He didn’t.

In contrast to everywhere else I visited in Europe, Assisi was quite boring and spiritually bare. I couldn’t wait to leave.

Later I indulged a friend and went to Lourdes, more to check off “visited Marian site” than anything else. In contrast to my love of St. Francis, my Marian devotion was fairly weak, I am embarrassed to say. Yet, I was blown away completely there, caught by surprise by the graces and spiritual healing that took place.

Today we hear about Elijah who fails to find God in “the usual” places that most people would have expected: immense powers of nature. Often here, I would emphasize that God is indeed found in tiny whisperings. Yet I think it bears mentioning too that God loves to surprise us by showing up in places we least expect (perhaps a whisper, but perhaps a shout.) If we are expecting him in a place, it would be too easy to fool ourselves that some mental echo is actually the will of God. An excellent sign that it’s Gods voice is that it catches us off guard, even unprepared, just as the Apostles were not expecting him to be walking on the sea.

Fr Dan