This week, my wife Kathy and I released our brand new “The Happy in a Hurry Cookbook, 100 Plus Fast & Easy Recipes that Taste Like Home” (William Morrow, September 29, 2020) And while it is a wonderful cookbook, it’s also a collection of Doocy family stories from our 30+ years of marriage.
This week there’s one name in the news that’s been getting a lot of attention and it reminds me of a story from our cookbook that you have never heard. In fact, this story has an absolutely shocking conclusion, and it’s also one of the reasons I know there is a higher power. Let me explain.
In the early 90’s Father Jerome Fasano baptized two of our children at St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church in our Virginia neighborhood outside Washington, DC.
I attended with great regularity, and Father Fasano became a very good friend and loved Kathy’s lasagna, which she famously made me on our first date and we have forever since referred to as “Engagement Lasagna.”
Once the Father invited me to attend a meeting in the rectory to hear the eyewitness account of Ivan Dragicevic, one of six young people who in the 1980s claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, Bosnia.
Of course, I said I’d go, because I love to hear personal recollections of historical events, plus there was always cake at evening events at the rectory.
When I arrived, there were about 20 people in a circle made of folding chairs, and in the back of the living room was Father Fasano with the actual visionary and his translator.
I got the last chair by the door and sat down. As soon as I did, Father Fasano said that before we heard the speaker’s story, we would pray the Rosary, which I knew… kind of.
At that time I’d probably heard the Rosary once in my life; I remember it was the Our Father and Hail Mary over and over, and then some other prayers, which we read out of a book. While I was waiting for somebody to hand out the cheat sheets, everyone in the room started praying out loud in unison.
Somebody handed me a rosary and I immediately put my finger on the first bead, everybody else was holding the crucifix, so I backed up one.
As long as everybody prayed out loud, in unison, I’d be fine. And I was — until everybody stopped and then the first person in the first chair across the room from me started praying aloud—alone.
This just got better — he’ll pray for us. But then he stopped and the person next to him started.
When that person wrapped up, the third person took over.
That’s when it dawned on me — soon I would be expected to lead the most religious people in my parish in a prayer I did not know.
So quietly I counted the number of people left to speak and then calculated the remaining number of beads.
The news was not good; I was to be leading the group in a series of prayers based on the Joyful, Sorrowful, or Glorious Mysteries, each one recited on a different day of the week.
Those prayers were a mystery to me.
Holy cow, my goose was cooked.
With three people left before it was my turn, I was about to be revealed as a lifelong Catholic who always sat in the back row, and for good reason — he did not know how to pray properly!
The person to my right was just starting, I would be next, and would be excommunicated by the time the cake was cut.
I could already feel a combination of flop sweat and embarrassment when I said to myself and really meant it, “God up there in heaven, please help me.”
The person next to me stopped talking. It was show time.
I cleared my throat for my public confession, hesitated awkwardly for a moment, and started to speak…
But just then the doorbell rang. A reprieve?
I jumped up to open the door and standing there was a guy I’d sat next to many times in the back pew of our church: Supreme Court Justice of the United States of America, Antonin Scalia.
“Good evening, Justice Scalia,” I said. “We are wrapping up the Rosary; please take my chair. We are on that bead—and it’s your turn.”
It’s your turn? Where did that come from?
Scalia didn’t hesitate; he sat in my chair and perfectly recited the correct Mystery to the appreciative room. He’s a Supreme Court justice and he knows the Sorrowful Mystery? That’s our Nino…
My head was spinning. What just happened?
Thirty seconds earlier I had directly asked God for help out of a jam and He sent the most famous Catholic in the country!
Later on the short drive home I just kept thinking why did that happen, when it did, with him? It was probably just a coincidence, right?
A priest told me once at a spiritual retreat, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” I think about that a lot.
So maybe it was just a coincidence, but then again so many of us are praying that somebody. somewhere is actually listening and every once in a while if we’re observant we see something that sure looks like proof.
That night Antonin Scalia was my guardian angel. How many people can say that?
Used with permission of William Murrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.