Faith-filled encounters while travelling

Some travel to marvel at natural wonders, and man-made architectural feats. And some of us encounter God when we travel.

Jun 15, 2024

(Unsplash/Timo Stern)

Faithfully Speaking - Julie Lim Seet Yin

Many of us love to travel, and we travel for various reasons. Some of us travel to experience the culture and food in another country. Some travel to marvel at natural wonders, and man-made architectural feats. And some of us encounter God when we travel.

Since we are in the month of June, I thought that I should share about my faithfilled encounters when travelling, particularly because the first story happened in June during the Feast of St Anthony of Padua.

Bargaining with St Anthony of Padua
In June 2023, during a trip to Perhentian Island, I lost my room key. After travelling to numerous countries, this was the first time that I had lost a room key.

I had kept the key in my pocket and went to pick up rubbish on the beach. After a while, I suddenly realised that the key was no longer in my pocket. We traced back the path where we had walked but could not find it.

When we went to get a spare key from reception, the staff informed us that there was a MYR100.00 charge for guests who lost their room key. I was ready to beat myself up as I could have done so many things with MYR100.00 The staff advised us to continue looking for the key as we were staying 3 more nights at the resort.

Coincidentally, I had lost the key on June 12, which was the day before the Feast of St Anthony of Padua, the patron saint for lost items. Due to the coincidence in timing, I whispered to St Anthony that if the key was found, I would donate MYR100.00 (which was equivalent to the fine) to the Church of St Anthony at Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. Might as well donate the fine to a parish than pay it to the resort for nothing.

On the morning of June 13, which was the Feast of St Anthony of Padua, the key was still not found. I was ready to concede and pay the MYR100.00 fine. However, at 5.20pm, whilst we were lazing on the porch of our chalet, a couple turned up at our doorstep with the key!

The husband said they found it on the beach near a few boats. Interestingly, we had looked hard in that very area the day before but had not found the key.

I was speechless and couldn’t stop grinning. After thanking the couple, I whispered, “St Anthony, you are truly the patron saint for missing items!”

Couldn’t find the church
The next story happened in October 2019 during a trip to Prague in the Czech Republic (also known as Czechia) when I wanted to attend Mass.

I was travelling with a church friend to the Czech Republic. Being faithful Roman Catholics, we naturally wanted to attend Sunday Mass.

Most of the Masses in Prague were in the local language and the only Mass in the English language (that we could find) was sunset Mass at the Church of St Thomas. The church is located in the Mala Strana district of Prague, near the infamous Charles Bridge that links Prague’s Old and New Towns.

On that Saturday afternoon, we took the tram from our hotel and when we reached the Mala Strana district, I whipped out my mobile phone, activated Google Maps and began looking for the Church of St Thomas.

After walking around the area in circles, we still couldn’t find it. We asked people in the area but nobody seemed to know where the church was. After trying to locate the church for almost an hour, and realising that Mass was about to begin in 30 minutes, I began to despair. I saw a guy standing outside a shop and made a last desperate attempt to ask him. I told myself that if this guy too didn’t know where the Church of St Thomas was, then we would kiss our intention of attending Sunset Mass goodbye.

When the guy shook his head indicating that he didn’t know where the church was, my hopes of attending sunset Mass were dashed.

As we stood there looking dejected, we heard a voice from behind, “Are you looking for the Church of St Thomas?”

We turned around and saw an elderly man.

“Come follow me,” he said, and started walking.

Just as we teach our children not to follow strangers, I asked him who he was.

“I am Fr William, the parish priest of the Church of St Thomas. I am going to the church now to celebrate Mass.”

I was relieved and amazed at the same time. Relieved that we could now attend Mass, and amazed at how our search for the church panned out. What were the odds of bumping into the parish priest of the very church that we were trying so hard to find?

When Fr William brought us to the Church of St Thomas, we were led into a side gate, passed a dark corridor and into the church itself. The church was less than 100m from where we had asked the last guy for directions. The entrance was not clearly visible from the road and there were no signboards. That is probably why we couldn’t find it.

During Mass, tears were streaming down my face. When I looked at the cross above the altar, I felt the immense love of God. My friend said that if one wants to attend Mass so badly and is trying their very best to do so, God will enable it. I thought that is so true.

So, you see, travelling can be an amazing adventure to encounter the divine. It offers us the opportunity to experience the love of God in a different but profound way. May our travels always lead us to faith-filled encounters with Him.

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