Occasionally, random things turn up in and around our house, and no one knows whence they came.

This weekend, for example, a tattered US flag appeared in our kitchen without explanation. Someone must have assumed that we at St. Anthony’s would know how to properly dispose of a flag that is due for retirement. Indeed, it’s true that Jackie H. knew exactly how and where to properly dispose of a de-commissioned flag. But the happy circumstance of Jackie’s knowledge of flag etiquette doesn’t make the mysterious appearance of the flag any less of a surprise.

Then there are the rapidly multiplying pairs of snowshoes downstairs – are they the self-replicating kind?

And then there are the three gleeful deer who seemed to have materialized straight out of the snowy ground yesterday when I, in search of fresh snow for snowshoeing, stomped quite unknowingly into their tree-ringed playground and startled them into sudden flight. Where could they possibly have been hiding their substantial brown furriness in that expanse of glistening, uninterrupted, sun-kissed snow?

On the reverse side of the coin, there are those things that can’t be found for all the searching in the world. My car key, for starters. It disappeared on a chilly November day, much to everyone’s consternation. When last seen, it was in the car. And now? Poof. Even with the aid of Tracy’s high powered flashlight, there have been no signs of said key in months.

Then there are Marge’s mystery outlets. You may recall that Marge and her sister have been diligently labeling breaker boxes, breakers, and their corresponding switches or outlets throughout the house. In the course of conducting this magnificent project, Marge and Joanne have discovered the perplexing presence of at least one mystery outlet on each floor of the house. How can this be, given that all of the breaker boxes have been carefully examined and assiduously labelled? There must be a hidden breaker box somewhere, much like that hidden water pipe that Patrick and I never did find on the Night of the Great Boiler Outage….

And then of course there is the tree in the woods that Just Bob adorned with lights for the holiday season. I must have clomped by said tree at least 10 times on my snowshoes since mid December. Where is it? Why do its presumably cheerful holiday lights escape my gaze every single time I enter the woods?

Life’s mysteries abound, and we seem to have more than our fair share of them here in a house so large and so delightfully steeped in the ministry of welcoming the stranger; the friend; the lost; the not-lost; the sometimes-lost, but sometimes-not; and everyone in between. We never know with 100% certainty which one(s) of our fellow travelers through life – be they familiar traveling companions or friends whom we’ve just met – will be there of a morning in the kitchen or the dining room or the chapel or the front hallway to greet the new day with us.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hail, Guest, we ask not what thou art!
If friend, we greet thee hand and heart
If stranger, such no longer be!
If foe, our love will conquer thee!

Truly there are no foes in this sacred space of surprise and grace. So may it be in all times and all places.

Deo Gratias!