I saw God in Las Vegas.
This post will be a long one so I am going to break it up into three parts: The Taxi, Church and the Strip.
Part One: The Taxi
My husband had a day of meetings and I had the day to myself. The Las Vegas strip is a familiar place to me, as work has taken me there often over the years. I am not much of a gambler and even less of a drinker so the shops, spas and restaurants are usually my main diversions. But instead of shopping or a massage, I wanted to find daily Mass.
I searched the internet and found the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer and made plans to attend their midday Mass. While I was poking around I also found that relics of Padre Pio, currently touring the USA, were going to be in Las Vegas that very week! My time in Vegas was short but I hoped to be able to catch a glimpse of those as well.
I hopped into a taxi and both the driver and the doorman seemed surprised that I had given an off-strip address. The driver inquired as to whether it was business or residence and I explained that it was a church. He said “Oh, yes, I have been there. It is a beautiful place.”
“Are you Catholic?” I asked him. “Yes, well Catholic and Orthodox, I don’t know. My mother was Catholic and my father was Orthodox. So I don’t know what I am.”
I told him about the relics of Padre Pio and that this was an incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity. He said he wouldn't go but his wife would be interested in seeing them. So I searched for the schedule on my handheld while he talked about life.
Turns out he had moved to the US thirty some years ago from France. His wife was a devout Catholic. He was deeply concerned about the state of affairs in his homeland, feeling that religious and ethnic tensions were tearing away at the France he once knew. “I don’t feel safe there. Here if you call the police, they come. In France, they don’t come.”
“I am so sorry, sir.” I said, truly meaning it. “I’ve been following what has been happening in France and I know it must hurt to watch your country deteriorate. I promise I will pray for France – and for you – when I am at Mass today.”
At this point the schedule of the Padre Pio relics appeared on my screen and I read it to my driver. Happily, they would be at the church his wife attends on Thursday of that week. As I inquired about the other locations for veneration, it became apparent that I would not likely have the chance to attend.
We had arrived at the Shrine, and my driver jumped out of the taxi and ran around to the back door. He opened my door and stood there, hesitating for a moment.
“Thank you so much, sir," I said, smiling as I handed him the fare. “Have a good day!"
“God Bless you” he said emphatically, but with the uncertainty of someone who doesn't use the term often . He looked at me and gave me a hug.
I wouldn’t see the relics of Padre Pio that week. But something told me that this fallen away Frenchman would.