What was once lost has been found

By Matt Potter

Radical Joy

Catholic Stewardship and Abundance

There are things that happen in life that defy explanation. Sometimes, we don’t give them a second thought; others are real head-scratchers.

The next few columns from yours truly will address some of those events that I have experienced. These events were true gifts from God, and I am grateful for his sharing them with me.  I share them with you out of a sense of stewardship, returning all I have been given with increase.

The Diocese of Cheyenne, my home before moving to Evansville, had several priests from the Diocese of San Carlos in the Philippines. Almost a decade ago, we traveled to San Carlos to meet with the bishop and to visit the home of our guest priests.

Among the essential items that went with me were my camera, which I carried in a backpack designed for such duty, and my breviary, which is the one-volume edition of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Our journey required multiple flights, with the first one originating in Denver. As we waited for that flight, I pulled out the breviary and prayed Evening Prayer. When I finished, I placed the book in a side pocket of my camera bag and put the bag in the overhead bin above my seat.

It took 30 hours to get to San Carlos. As you might imagine, we were quite weary when we arrived at the bishop’s compound/campus in San Carlos and thoughts of sleep were front and center. After we rested, I searched for my breviary to pray Morning Prayer, but it was nowhere to be found. It had fallen out of the side pocket of the camera bag, and I was pretty sure I would never see it again.

It felt like I lost my friend. Worse yet, there was nothing I could do about it.

There was a seminary on the campus and one of the seminarians offered to let me use his spare breviary while we were visiting. While the borrowed breviary contained the same prayers as my lost one, it felt like I was wearing somebody else’s shoes. There is a lot of page-turning and ribbon-chasing in the Liturgy of the Hours, and my missing book had everything laid out in a useful and familiar manner. The substitute book did not.

When we returned to Cheyenne, I began looking for a replacement for my lost breviary. I ordered one, and it arrived a few days later, but it just didn’t feel right. I tried to make it my own but had a very difficult time doing just that.

That’s when I received a phone call from United Airlines.

“Hello, Mr. Potter? This is United Airlines in Los Angeles. Our cleaning crew found your book in the overhead bin of your flight from Denver. I would like to send it back to you. Can I get your address?”

A few days later, I had my breviary, which I thought was lost forever, in my hands.

It is inexplicable that the book was returned to me because the only identification in the book was my name on the inside the front cover. No address, phone or email. Someone found the book, gave it to a UAL employee who took the time to look inside the book for identification. That person then searched the flight manifesto for a matched name, found my contact information, called me from Los Angeles, and then sent the breviary to me. To top it off, United Airlines did not charge me for the postage to return my breviary.

It would have been far easier for any one of the people involved to have simply discarded the book with the cookie wrappers and water bottles from the cabin of the plane. But they didn’t, and I am glad they didn’t.

I am grateful to God for the Liturgy of the Hours, and I am grateful to the people from United Airlines, who were such good stewards of my breviary. I think about them every day when I open it up to pray.

As always, thanks for reading. I would love to hear from you. Write to me at [email protected].; Check out our blog: radicaljoy.blog/.