One way I have opened the door to God acting in my life is that before taking a seat somewhere such as on a plane or at some event, I send up a prayer: “God, you decide who I sit next to and direct our conversation.” That’s it. Many times the person sitting next to me has said: “It must have been meant to be that you sat next to me.”
Then they really look surprised when I tell them: “I’m sure of it. I asked God to decide who I sat next to and to direct our conversation.” It is not every single time, but it is very often, especially on planes since I fly periodically to visit family or for some work-related trip. I also know a couple of other people who do the same thing and have gotten the same results.
It is probably safe to say that most Catholics are uncomfortable sharing their faith. We are commanded, however, to go out and spread the good news. “Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ’s disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world” (CCC 1533).
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19).
By praying, “God, you decide who I sit next to and direct our conversation,” I simply volunteer for duty and let God lead the way. The first time I prayed that was before flying home to visit my parents. At one of the stops, the plane was grounded for a time while some maintenance issue was tended to. A conversation with my seatmate who worked for Public TV in the children’s division, began with a bit of small talk. It turned into him sharing some dilemma he and his wife were having with their two daughters. “You need to pray about it,” I said at one point which led to his admission that he didn’t pray anymore, which led to a deeper conversation about faith. It clearly impacted him. “My wife is not going to believe this conversation we had when I tell her,” he told me at the end. “She knows that I never talk to anyone on planes. It must have been meant for you to sit next to me.”
Another time, I was flying back from EWTN  after being interviewed on the Bookmark  program for Amazing Grace for Mothers  book. A nursing student next to me was returning home from a weekend visiting her husband who was in pilot’s training. Her in-laws had babysat their two children. She talked at length about a lot of things. Towards the end of the flight, she asked if I had any children. “Yes, I have eight,” (two more came later). She threw herself to the side of her seat and looked me up and down.
“You don’t look religious,” she stammered. Then she took a breath. “Eight? “How can you do that? Doesn’t it get to you at times?”
At that point, the Holy Spirit gave me words I had never even thought of before. “Flight attendants are thought to have glamourous lives, aren’t they?” I asked.
I pointed to the flight attendant in front of us putting trash in a black garbage bag. “What is she doing?”
“And you are studying to be a nurse, right?”
“Will you be emptying bedpans and taking care of sick patients?”
“I’ll tell you the difference between that and what I do,” I said. “When I take care of my children, I am taking care of the people I love most in the world. So how is anything better than that?”
She looked stunned. “I think I was supposed to sit next to you,” she said.
I have no idea what was going on in her life to make what I said strike her so deeply, but it has happened many times. Seatmates with such a reaction have included fallen away Catholics and some struggling to have any faith at all. I have heard that same sentence so often that it assures me that God accepts our offers to serve him and then handles all the details—including sending the Holy Spirit to lead the way.