by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
A few months ago, Drs. Tom and Jeanne Doyle shared with me a remarkable moment of grace they experienced while on a Jubilee of Mercy family pilgrimage to Poland.
Tom and Jeanne are parishioners of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka. For the Jubilee of Mercy, they decided to do a family pilgrimage by visiting the places that were significant in the lives of the two great saints of Divine Mercy — St. Pope John Paul II and St. Faustina.
The night before their scheduled departure, their youngest child Catherine remarked while examining her newly acquired passport: “Look, Dad, they misspelled my name.” Tom replied by telling Catherine that she should not joke about something so serious. Catherine held her ground: “No, Dad, I am serious. They really did misspell my name.” He examined her passport like it was the EKG report of one of his heart patients and, sure enough, the last name on her passport was Doyce, not Doyle.
Tom’s heart sunk. He feared their entire pilgrimage could be compromised by a clerical error. Jeanne reassured him: “We are not going on vacation. We are making a pilgrimage. God is going to take care of us.”
They agreed that they would go as planned. If the error on Catherine’s passport prevented her from boarding a plane along the way, Tom would remain with Catherine and Jeanne would continue with the rest of the family to Poland.
Tom said he trusted God’s providence in the big things, but he had his doubts that their family pilgrimage was important enough to receive God’s attention. After all, the world was not going to be at risk or adversely affected if the Doyle family did not make it to Poland. He wondered: Does God really care about the “little things” of our lives?
Catherine did not have a problem boarding the plane in Kansas City. Since it was a domestic flight to Chicago, they used identification other than her passport. When they arrived in Chicago, the Doyles discovered their international flight was delayed because of a mechanical problem with the plane.
When this mechanical issue had been successfully resolved, the airline personnel were eager to expedite the boarding process. The boarding agent looked at the Doyles and asked: “Are you all one family?” They replied: “Yes.” The agent inquired: “Do you all have passports?” When they responded affirmatively, she waved them through the boarding checkpoint without ever looking at the children’s passports.
Tom was relieved. However, their Chicago flight was not a nonstop to Poland. They had to catch a connecting flight in Brussels. Tom was encouraged that they were going to make it to Europe at least, but he was concerned about the boarding process in Brussels. With the recent terrorist attack at the Brussels airport, he assumed security would be heightened.
However, when they approached the boarding agent in Brussels, it was déjà vu — Chicago all over again! The agent asked them if they were all one family and if they all had passports. When they answered affirmatively, the agent waved them through and welcomed them on board!
Once they were in Krakow, Poland, they went to the American consulate and were able to get Catherine’s passport corrected. They had a fabulous pilgrimage with many amazing experiences.
One of the highlights was visiting the Divine Mercy Sanctuary, where St. Faustina had lived and the Divine Mercy devotion was born. One of the Sisters of St. Faustina’s community gave them an incredible tour. This saintly Sister spent a great deal of time with their family, describing the life of St. Faustina and how her famous diary came to be.
At the conclusion of the tour, as the Sister was bidding them farewell, she turned to Tom and said specifically to him: “Remember, God has the little things!” Tom was startled. He asked the Sister why she had made that remark to him. The Sister replied: “I don’t know. The Holy Spirit told me to say it to you.”
I think many of us doubt God’s providence in the seemingly insignificant events of our lives. The Doyle family pilgrimage experience was a good illustration to me that when we are striving to do God’s will, there is nothing too small for God’s attention.
Jeanne Doyle is a psychiatrist who has chosen to set aside her professional career in order to devote all of her attention to raising and forming her eight children. She has recently written a book entitled “Kids for the Kingdom,” published by Christian Faith Publishing, Inc.
In the book, Jeanne shares her insights gained from her efforts to raise virtuous and faith-filled children. I recommend “Kids for the Kingdom” to Catholic parents. The book is provocative, in that it challenges many popular cultural assumptions about parenting. It is also filled with eminently practical advice on how to raise kids for the kingdom.