by Robert Baiocco

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign; blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind; do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” Oftentimes musicians are theologians, and they don’t even know it. In this case, the Canadian group Five Man Electrical Band which recorded the popular song “Signs” in 1971 spoke volumes through this catchy refrain. Although undoubtedly their original purpose was to protest intolerance and exclusion that existed in that day, the lyrics of this song deliver a spiritual message to those who will consider it.

It is often the slogan of spiritual people that they “walk by faith,” and indeed while this is true it is hardly a blind faith but one that is nurtured by constant reinforcement and validation. God doesn’t expect us to believe without any help or indication that we are on the right track; rather he embeds many signs within the fabric of our lives to assure us that we are on course, that God is with us, and that we are not alone in our struggle. It is the job of the person of faith to look for such clues as they appear in the day to day grind of life. In this regard, we are not talking about sublime and ethereal mystical experiences that occur fairly rarely for most people, but we are referring to evidence for the hand of God in the ordinary course of our earthly routine.

Undoubtedly, the perception of such signs is an art form, and one gets better at identifying them with practice and fine tuning of his awareness of seeing the divine implanted in the ebb and flow of life. Could we spell out how to recognize such harbingers from heaven, and the answer to that question must be both yes and no. There are limitless ways that God can communicate to the individual and all of them personal, so that types of signs can hardly be categorized and put “in a box.” What will clearly be a portent for one soul will in fact be meaningless to another, for the sign is uniquely tailored to the individual. In a language that is meaningful to the recipient, the little flags that God inserts into our lives are special because of their incredible timing and because of the way that the soul can resonate with them.

A sign of God’s love could be very simple like the sun suddenly peeking through the clouds to shine on your face as you gaze out the window. It could be as subtle as a gentle breeze wafting into your bedroom as you lay in bed at night. Such are the delicate reminders of God’s care and affection for us, if we will take note of them. But divine signals can of course be more complicated than this, especially when God is trying to convey a message to us whether for encouragement or a particular course of action. In such cases, we would do well to recognize when we keep reading or hearing the same idea frequently over a period of time. It could be a word we hear on the radio or through conversation with friends. It could be something that we read in the newspaper or in a magazine, and such reiterations of a special message are many times of great importance to the recipient because of the way they strike the individual and command his immediate attention.

Signs were very important in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament where we see numerous occasions where miracles were given for people to believe or to be sure about a course of action. No criticism ever came from heaven when the people asked for them, and at times God would simply grant them to help the people along. Of course the signs we read about in the scriptures are miraculous supernatural events, and though such events are not frequent in our everyday lives, it must be recognized that every genuine sign that God embeds into the path of our journey is no less a miracle than if the sun traced its steps backward in the sky. That is because the timing of divine harbingers is so precise that none other than the hand of God could orchestrate them with such exactitude that they appear in the course of our lives just at the right moment.

When Moses was sent to the Israelites, he was concerned that they wouldn’t believe that God had commissioned him as a prophet, and so the Lord gave him a few miraculous signs to demonstrate to the people. Among these was the ability to throw his staff to the ground so that in turned into a snake, to put his hand in his cloak and withdraw it as leprous white, and to pour out water from the Nile on the ground that it became blood. Clearly God did not expect the children of Israel to just believe Moses without any special indicators to do so, and the same is true for us today who follow the path of faith.

A few hundred years later Gideon the Judge received miraculous signs at a very big juncture in his life. Being called to lead the Israelites in battle against their enemies the Midianites, he was unquestionably somewhat scared and so asked God for not just one but two indications that he was really being asked to do this. On one evening he put a fleece on the ground and asked that in the morning it alone would be wet while the ground all around it was dry, and it was so. On the second evening, he put the fleece on the ground again and asked the reverse, namely that the fleece would be dry and the ground wet and it was granted to him. Some would criticize Gideon’s requests as testing God, but that would only be true if Gideon was not really interested in knowing and following the will of God. When something is extremely important for us to do, it is absolutely essential that we confirm that we have heard God clearly on it. The Apostle John writes, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” In fact, it is our duty to make sure we really know what God wants us to do, and asking God for some sort of confirmation that we will recognize is not only not wrong but a right thing to do.

Later in the time of the kings of Judah, another great sign was granted to one of the faithful monarchs. God told Hezekiah to get his affairs in order because he was going to die, but this message was needless to say very disturbing news for the king. In tears he begged God to heal him, and so the Lord took pity on him and told him he would add fifteen years to his life. Perhaps it wasn’t enough for Hezekiah to hear this good news through the prophet Isaiah; he then sought some confirmation that what he heard would indeed be true, so God granted him a miraculous sign, namely that the shadow of the sun would go backwards ten steps, and this wonder satisfied the king that God would certainly come through for him. Indeed what we learn from this is that it is O.K. to ask God for a little encouragement when we are struggling with something that scares us, and in a unique way he will communicate to us that he loves us and is with us in our hardship.

It seems that the Israelites treasured their miraculous signs, and rather than taking any chance that they or successive generations would forget the times that God showed up in a big way for them, they created memorials of the events that could serve as reminders of the times God came through for them at an important time.

When the patriarch Jacob had escaped from the wrath of his brother Esau, he had a dream in the place called Bethel. The dream was a spiritual one in which he saw a stairway to heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it. During the dream, God told him that his descendants would fill the land of Canaan where he lay, and when he awoke in the morning he was so moved by this vision of the night, that he took the stone he was sleeping on and erected it as a pillar and poured oil on it as a signpost that God had visited him there.

Like an altar, the people of Israel built such memorials for the generations to come that they might know about the work of God. When Joshua led the people across the Jordan into the Promised Land, the river dried up so that the Israelites were able to cross dry-shod. While the river was dammed up upstream of the people, Joshua told representatives of each of the twelve tribes to pick up a stone out of the river, and so they gathered the twelve stones together on the other shore as a monument to this momentous crossing when the descendants of Abraham returned to Canaan after over 400 years.

Some centuries later, the prophet Samuel did something similar when the Israelites were engaged in battle with the Philistines. We are told that God miraculously intervened in the battle by thundering from heaven such that the Philistines were thrown into a panic. Subsequently they were easily routed by the Israelites, so Samuel set up a stone and called it Ebenezer meaning “stone of help” because God had assisted his people in a great way.

In all of these vignettes, the purpose in creating a monument was to commemorate the extraordinary hand of God in the life of the nation. These occasions were special to the Israelites for they witnessed the power of God and wanted to keep it in memory. Indeed, building such altars to God is an important practice for by remembering the many times that he has been with us, our faith is increased. Faith is one of those virtues that can only be grown through experience, and it is the many times in our lives that we recall how God was with us through signs and circumstances that we have the courage to believe God for the next challenge that comes our way. We must build signposts to recall the times that God has visited us, for by cherishing those past events, we are strengthened to press on ahead into unfamiliar territory.

While in modern times, people of faith will not necessarily build stone monuments to remember the significant divine visitations in their lives, they will often keep a written record of their experiences, and looking back in such diaries or journals will see the hand of God leading them along the way, building a spiritual tapestry which will slowly but surely become visible as the years progress. It has been my practice to keep a record of signs and experiences which have been meaningful to me over a number of years, and I share them now with the hope that you will do the same. For sharing our journey with others engenders faith and fosters the practice of seeing the hand of God in all the little things of life.

My journey has been a long one, and I couldn’t possibly relate all that has happened to me along the way, but I can share some of the particularly meaningful events that have happened as I have trudged along the path of faith. God has always been a part of my life since childhood, but it wasn’t until I began to struggle with chronic pain and injuries starting in my mid-twenties that I started to seek him diligently for answers to the afflictions that beset me.

For a few years since my physical problems began, I sought out all kinds of doctors but no answer could be given to why I felt as poorly as I did. After exhausting all avenues, it finally became clear that my suffering was not purely physically based but had deeper emotional and spiritual roots that needed to be dealt with. In one sense, this realization was a relief, but it also foreboded that I would be embarking on an unknown path for years to come.

Perhaps out of necessity, I started learning how to hear the “voice of God” and to become aware of those kinds of signs we have discussed for some consolation in the midst of the burden that was upon me. I remember vividly the first such divine message that came in the form of a paper towel that I unrolled as I sat down for dinner one summer evening in 2002. Feeling rather forlorn for some time, I had unwittingly purchased a roll that had a special print pattern on it, and the word “Trust” jumped out at me as I read the paper towel on the table. It struck me immediately as a word of consolation and encouragement, that God was asking me to have confidence in him throughout the journey that I would be embarking on. Of course things did not improve suddenly for me at that moment, nor did I expect them to, but I received a spiritual “shot in the arm” that night to know that God was leading me and ultimately I would be O.K. Strangely, when I finished that roll of paper towels I went back to the store looking for the same one as it had such a powerful impact on me, but that brand was nowhere to be found. In hindsight, it was only available at the time that I needed it, and that was what God was communicating to me.

A couple years passed and I continued to follow God along the path of healing that was being laid out for me. As God was dealing with deeper issues in the heart, some of my physical ailments began to abate but new ones started to afflict me unexpectedly. In the Fall of 2004 I experienced heartburn for the first time in my life and it didn’t last for just a day or two but continued chronically for nine months without relief. It was a hard trial for over-the-counter medications could not ease the pain. I lost a good deal of weight as I was forced to limit how much I consumed for fear of the burning. During the many months that I suffered acutely with it, it was not only the acid that tormented me but the fear that I was burning out my esophagus and stomach.

Both the physical and mental hardship weighed on me until finally the trial neared its climax. By August of 2005 it had gotten so bad that I was afraid to eat at all and so was forced to make an appointment with my uncle, a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy to see what had become of my digestive tract over these many months. Feeling anxious about this appointment, knowing full well the magnitude of the chronic burning, I decided to go for a walk on the evening before the appointment. A couple miles into my normal walking path, I noticed a dead snake in the road that appeared to have been run over by a car. Like the paper towel from three year earlier, the sight of this snake jumped out at me as a major sign. It was God speaking to me again and communicating that I had successfully weathered this trial and passed the test. Perhaps in a unique way that I would understand, God was saying that I had crushed the serpent underfoot. I had withstood the testing of the Evil One, and now the trial was finished. On the next day, miraculously my uncle found a healthy esophagus without any sign of damage whatsoever. I can’t explain it other than that I was supernaturally kept from the effects of the chronic acid. On that day the pain didn’t necessarily go away, but it was never as bad or as long lasting as it had been in that nine-month stretch, and ultimately it was the fear of the disease that was conquered at that juncture.

Three more years passed on my earthly pilgrimage, and again significant divine harbingers began to appear. 2008 turned out to be a very big year for me, and there are a few major incidents to relate. It was early in the year that I again entered into a deep period of emotional healing that I was not anticipating, one that took a few months to work through. It was during this time that God began to assure me that he was overseeing the healing process, for one word kept appearing over and over again wherever I went. That spring my good friend Ruth entered an assisted living home called “The Avalon.” And coincidentally a Christian band named “Avalon” came to a local church in my area for a concert. Everywhere I drove, I also began to notice Toyota Avalon’s on the road, and so I decided to research this somewhat cryptic word. From what I could read on the internet, Avalon was the legendary island that King Arthur went to after he was mortally wounded in battle. (It literally means Island of Apples.) It became clear that God was advising me through this word which I had seen prolifically that he was indeed healing me again on a deep level.

One of my counselors during this time had informed me that God was asking me to trust him, and I wondered then about what kind of circumstances I might find myself in where I would again have to believe him in a big way. In the spring of that year I had also planned a hiking trip to Montana in July with a friend and was looking forward to returning again to Glacier National Park where I had visited years earlier. Only when July came I was finding myself in poor physical condition. I began to experience stiffness in my wrists and pain in my knees and wondered if the Lyme disease I had two years earlier was returning. Sciatica as well as pain in my hands and feet was plaguing me and I did not feel like I make this trip, and the night before I wrestled with whether I should call my friend to cancel it.

Yet, despite how I was feeling, somehow inwardly I felt that I should go anyway believing that I would be O.K. Struggling with how I felt physically, I sat down at the picnic table outside and began to read the newspaper. Flipping through the pages, I was immediately captivated by a local hospital advertisement with the image of a baby and caption labeled “Trust.” Right away I knew God was speaking to me. My counselor had delivered the same message to me, and so I thought despite how I felt I had to get on a plane the next morning for Montana. And so I did aching and not up to snuff.

When I arrived there, I had the distinct impression that God had brought me once again to that serene place to complete the inner healing that I had begun in the spring. Getting up the next morning to pray, I drove to a remote place and said my normal prayers. In the midst of this time, I felt the physical pain leaving my body so much so that I was quite well enough to get on the trails that morning. As often had been the case, emotional pain was mirrored in physical pain, and the catharsis I experienced that morning was the release from the process I began earlier that year.

That day, I hiked twelve miles with little pain and ample energy. We were in the region of the park that is called Two Medicine Lake, and I realized that this name also was a divine indication that I had come to Montana for healing. As I passed through the high elevations I came to a pine a tree and ran my fingers through the soft new growth at the end of the branches and was distinctly aware of God’s presence in this trip.

I wish I could say the rest of the trip was bright and cheery, but trouble began for me the next day. While coming down the trail of another high mountain, I began to experience the old familiar acid pain again in my chest. And I could only wonder why this was happening to me on this vacation of healing. Little did I know at this point, God was about to call me to large task in the coming weeks and what I would call a psychic awareness of that fact was unnerving me as I made my way down the mountain. My emotional healing was now complete, and God was about to commission me to a special job and apparently it was disturbing me subconsciously. When I got back to the motel that day, I decided to take a walk to the local gift shop just to pass time and get my mind off of this pain. When I arrived there, my eyes once again were drawn to a souvenir on one of the shelves that said, “Trust me.” God was again reiterating the same message I had been receiving. It was not only about trusting him to get on a plane to Montana, but as I would soon discover, it was about believing in him about the call I was about to receive, a much weightier matter.

Since 2003, a vocation was welling up inside of me that both surprised and disturbed me. I began to have a powerful attraction to the priesthood, and my mind was often flooded with images of standing behind the altar and offering up the Holy Sacrifice, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. As with anyone who receives this invitation to serve God in this capacity, the deep joy that accompanies this work becomes a burning passion within the soul, and so it was with me. I couldn’t deny how I felt, but I didn’t know exactly what to do with it. I also felt strongly that I had a calling to marriage, but of course within the Roman Catholic Church of which I was a part, I would have to choose one or the other, and this was distressing.

How could God plant the call to both inside of me and then make me have to decide between one of two options? While I knew that God was ultimately asking me to become a priest, I felt he also wasn’t asking me to abandon my job at Philips and enter the local Catholic seminary. Five years passed in which I carried this knowledge without knowing exactly when and where I would begin training for it. And then in the summer of 2008 it became clear.

For two years prior to this time I had been having regular dialogue with a bishop in an Old Catholic Church in Australia (a spin-off Catholic group that allows for a married clergy.) I found that the more we conversed, the more I was attracted to the theology of this little denomination, but of course practically I hadn’t entertained joining it as it was halfway around the world and was too remote to seriously consider. But then after returning from Montana, I felt the weight of this calling intensify, and I knew inside that it would be clear in short order how and where to begin studying for the priesthood.

Signs were everywhere and within a few days of each other, two women both told me I should become a priest. One had mentioned it to me at a retreat, and another sent me an email relating that she thought I would make a good priest. And what made these suggestions somewhat miraculous is that they both came from Protestant women who wouldn’t ordinarily even support the notion of the priesthood.

When I shared my struggle with the bishop from Australia, he offered that I could train to become a priest through his school, studying online. And then I knew that was the avenue I was to take. It became clear that I was to continue working my job by day and studying the seminary coursework at night, and so I began in the fall of 2008 but not without additional indicators that I was following the right path.

We should never be so naïve to think that following the path that God wants us to take will be easy. The forces of evil are all too eager to dissuade us from doing the work that God wants us to do and will make every attempt to derail us from our calling. St. Paul reminds us of this truth in his second letter to Timothy. He states, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” And so having scarcely said “yes” to God to begin training for the priesthood, I found myself contending with immediate physical afflictions. A whopping cold with allergy and asthma symptoms took hold of me right away and lasted a couple weeks, but no sooner did I recover from it then I got sick once again. Then I found myself the victim of an unhappy accident catching my fingers in the garage door one evening. I saw stars and badly lacerated my fingers but fortunately nothing was broken. While opposition to the course I had chosen had reared its ugly head, divine signals continued to come that I was on the right track, for at the same time I began to study one of the people in my Singles Group began to call me “Father Rob” completely unaware of what I was doing. In fact only a handful of people knew my intentions, and that this nickname was given to me and began to spread within this circle of friends became just another reinforcement that I was doing what I was supposed to do.

At this point I expected that it would be a few years before I would be qualified for ordination, for I could only study part-time at night and on weekends, but it seems as if God had other intentions. At the time I began my on-line coursework, my company coincidentally announced they would be closing the doors nine months later in June of 2009. I wasn’t sure what that was going to mean for me, but I continued my theological training at night through those nine months until I was terminated.

While searching for a new job, I felt I was being asked to both step up my studies and volunteer during this hiatus from regular employment. The volunteer opportunity crystallized through Habitat for Humanity with which I had done work in the past, and it turned out that at the time I was laid off, a major renovation project was needed on a home that was trashed by a former Habitat client family. In God’s timing volunteer work was conveniently provided for me, and laboring along with primarily one other retiree, I spent the next twelve months swinging a hammer and typing at my computer, working full time for God on the dime of Uncle Sam which God had very carefully arranged long before. Through God’s Providence, I would ultimately be supported by Unemployment Insurance for fifteen months through one of the worst economic downturns of recent times.

Though I was unemployed I did not deny myself some recreation time and as I usually did every November, I planned to go hunting as I had done every year since 2002. And now I must interject the story of the deer through which God was communicating to me in a very personal way that I did not fully understand until after several years had passed. Though I have always been an outdoors person, I didn’t consider taking up hunting until my roommate encouraged me to join him one season and see if I liked it. I wasn’t sure if I could actually pull the trigger or not, but I was curious so I purchased a gun in the Fall of 2002. I didn’t have an opportunity to shoot that season but nonetheless enjoyed the outdoor experience, and so decided I would continue again in 2003. It was that November that I did see some deer and was surprised how easily I was able to pull the trigger on them. My first attempt to sink some lead into one of these creatures failed. Perhaps I was too excited and couldn’t keep my gun steady, but I realized that I enjoyed this activity and so came back again the next year.

In November 2004 after a couple seasons of trying, I shot my first deer under what I thought were strange circumstances. I happened to be sitting on the patio, behind a rock wall high above the fields where the deer would unwittingly pass through my sites. I had been looking down mostly for what was walking below and became startled when I happened to look over to my right and saw only 30 yards away two deer just staring at me. I froze, so that they would not perceive me as their eyesight is poor. I thought surely their tails would go up, and they would quickly prance off, but to my surprise one of them, a doe descended nonchalantly from the patio at the other end of the rock wall and walked right below me, and I easily killed her from a very short distance. I was left with the profound feeling as if the creature had been given to me, as if it had been led by a mysterious hand to sacrifice itself for my benefit. And as the years would go on, I became fairly sure of this.

The next year, encouraged by my success the prior season, I set out again and on one afternoon was thrilled to follow a large buck with six points as it slowly approached from the other end of the property to where I was stationed above the field. Once it was in very close range, only 30 yards, I pulled the trigger and to my astonishment had missed completely, and the buck ran off. I found myself profoundly disappointed and felt a bit ashamed that I should be so disconcerted over this animal. After all people miss all the time, yet it impacted me significantly. I was determined to get back out there again, and the next morning was in my perch again before 6:00 A.M. It happened to be Thanksgiving morning and a couple inches of snow had fallen through the night so that I could see clearly with the reflection of light even at that early hour. As soon as I sat down, there below me was unmistakably another deer standing very still and apparently feeding on some brush. I waited for it to get a little lighter, and then when I could focus it clearly in my sites, I fired and the animal ran a short distance before falling to the ground. When I walked down to where it lay, I realized it was a small deer, a yearling male and what hunters would call a button buck, for it had just the small impressions of antlers protruding from its head at that tender age. Though it wasn’t the large buck I had hoped for the day before, I was happy to get it and felt in some way that it was given to me as a consolation for the other that I had missed.

In 2006 I returned to my normal hunting grounds, but I saw no deer at all, and the season passed without any fanfare. But in 2007, there was once again action on the property and one morning while I was sitting at my normal spot on the patio, my heart just about leapt out of my chest when I saw two large bucks with sizeable antlers traipse out of the woods and walk 30-40 yards beneath me. I quickly aimed my gun, and having one of them in my sites fired. And once again, to my amazement I missed completely and the animals ran off out of range. The disappointment was profound and gripped me no less than the incident two years earlier. For weeks I mourned the loss of this creature, and I began to understand that my attachment to the deer was more than just to a freezer full of meat and antlers to mount on the wall.

Something on a much deeper level was disturbed by my failure to catch one of these animals. On and off over the years I had dreamt of deer and was never sure exactly what to make of it until one time a visiting priest came to my church and gave a homily on the subject of dreams. He was an expert in the field and counseled many on how to go about interpreting them. After the Mass, I asked him what different types of animals signified and I related to him my dreams about deer. He told me that no animal has any universal meaning; rather each creature has a unique and personal relevance to the individual which needs to be discovered.

And so I began to decipher what indeed that was. It became clear over time that my interest in hunting was not about the thrill of the chase or a trophy to hang on the wall. I really wasn’t a true sportsman in that sense. Rather my quest for the deer was a reflection of an inner longing for something of more value, for these creatures represented in my subconscious a yearning for spiritual attainment. The deer were for me a symbol of achieving spiritual milestones and making progress along the path to God, and when I realized this, my experiences in the woods began to make sense.

God was indeed charting my own progress along the spiritual journey through these creatures which had a deep unconscious meaning to me, and he did so through a form of symbolism I was very familiar with. In religious allegory, the female signifies the universal negative and in that sense would represent the early stages of spiritual maturation. By contrast the male gender typifies the positive and consequently more developed stages of spirituality.

When I first shot a deer in 2004, it was a doe, or a female and it was as if God were saying, “You have only just begun to tread the path and are in the beginning stages of the spiritual journey I have called you to.” Only a year later, I had not progressed to a point where I would be worthy of taking down a large male deer with antlers symbolizing the power and dominion of the animal, and so it was necessary as a sign to me that I should miss a very simple shot to illustrate this point. The devastation was great, for on a subconscious level in my soul I realized the implications of this. But God nonetheless granted me a consolation the next day by sending a very small deer my way, a male with only the buds of antlers as if to say, “You are progressing, but this is the extent of your development thus far.”

My failure to successfully shoot another large male deer with 6 pointed antlers in 2007 naturally communicated the same notion, namely that I was not worthy to identify with quite such a powerful creature at that point in my development. The next year I had hoped for some action in the field but none came until 2009. Indeed it was in that year of being without a job and working for God full time through my religious training and volunteering that another sign would come. With the arrival of fall, my mother happened to randomly give me a door knob hanger (like a “do not disturb” sign) that was printed with the message: “It’s your time.” I felt that it was an omen of another milestone that I was approaching, and so it was. On the first day of hunting, I came to my familiar perch in the late afternoon and was seated for less than an hour when I spotted a deer running laps around a nearby pond. It got my attention but I figured the animal was way too excited to stand still for a shot. It darted here and there running at top speed and passed beneath me about 50 yards away and stopped dead in its tracks which I could hardly believe. I aimed and squeezed the trigger, and immediately the animal fell to the ground. When I descended to where it was I noticed it was a male deer, a buck with two antlers which is commonly called a spike. It was clearly a sign that my spiritual journey had taken me to a point where I could now identify with horned deer though still in their younger stages. It was an indicator that in God’s eyes I was nearly ready to take on the responsibility of the priesthood.

In early 2010 while driving to Habitat renovation home, I encountered a couple more signals that God was conveying to me as I read a couple vehicles on the road. First a truck passed by me with the word “Service” painted on the side, and then I noticed another vehicle shortly thereafter with a license plate frame that read “Local first.” I interpreted that God would be calling me to serve him in this region that I live and that when a job should come again it would be in the area. I was not going to be asked to move away.

By late March, it became clear that I would be able to finish my studies by the end of May, and so I booked a flight to Australia where the bishop planned to ordain me upon completion of my training. Just a few days before my departure, my fellow volunteer and I finished the renovation project and the house was rededicated and given to a new family. My work swinging a hammer and typing behind my computer was completed, and I made my way “down under” where I was made a priest on June 5th. And significantly to me I said my first Mass in the bishop’s church the next day, June 6th which is of course D-day, the turning point in WWII where the allies successfully stormed the beaches of Normandy. It represented in many ways a turning point in my life and a new chapter that was beginning and so I interpreted it as such. 2010 was also coincidentally dubbed “the year of the priest” in the Roman Catholic Church which I also interpreted as a sign that the timing to enter into this ministry was just right.

Returning to America, I was suddenly without the work that had occupied all of my time for the previous twelve months outside of my job search, and so I wondered what God had in store next. It was in that summer that I began to find numerous blue and brown feathers on the lawn which I collected and put on the mantle. Wherever I seemed to go I picked up various colored ones including along my favorite walking path where I had seen the dead snake years earlier. I perceived it as a sign that God was about to do something, and as it turned out, a job came along early that fall. After being in a hiring freeze for many months, IBM started to hire again, and I joined the company in October of that year.

In hindsight, I can see how the hand of God skillfully arranged all of these events with unimaginable precision to ensure that I could realize the vocation to which he was calling me. With great attention to detail, everything worked out according to the master plan, and there were many signs along the way which were put in my path to assure me that God was encouraging me and leading me to a destination that I could not have anticipated years earlier. It was only for me to read the divine indicators that were carefully embedded in the fabric of my life to know that God had a plan, and all was moving steadily toward the end he had desired. “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign; blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind; do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”