five fish for five priests

Not even a bite.

We had been fishing all afternoon – three of us priests – and we had caught nothing. Two other priests had been setting up our cookout, waiting for us to bring in our catch. We were on vacation together at Yellowstone Park, having a wonderful time, but just one little fish would have made it so much more wonderful.

The weather was gorgeous – sunny skies, perfect temperatures, just enough breeze to keep the bugs away. The air was sweet with the butterscotch scent of the Ponderosa pines. Huge cumulus clouds blazed picture-perfect purple as the sun set over the lake.

One little fish – that was all I asked of the Lord. I had been thinking of Him and how he helped Peter make his miraculous catch. I didn’t need a hundred and fifty-three, just one. And maybe a few more so that all five of us could have something to eat for dinner.

It was already 8pm, and the light was fading fast. I gave one last cast, hoping for the best. As I reeled in the last little bit of line and pulled my lure from the lake, I thought to myself, “Well, I’m ok with not catching anything, the beauty here is enough.” A group of about eight loons had appeared, leaving large wakes in the water. The moon – full, or almost full – cast an undulating mirror image of itself in the lake. A few sleepy stars had already begun peeking out their heads from the gathering darkness.

So I headed for the picnic table and the other priests. “That’s strange,” I thought. “Who’s that guy wearing a fishing vest?” An old man stood by our picnic table, chatting with one of the priests. As I leaned my rod against a tree, something on the picnic table caught my eye. There were five large trout laid out next to each other!

This man, Norberto, had seen the priests setting up the fire, and had offered his catch to us. He had no idea we had been fishing for so long without catching anything. “My wife doesn’t like fish,” was his only explanation.

There were five of us, and he had given us five trout.

Now if I remember correctly, in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus made five loaves and two fishes feed more than five thousand people. In a sense, He had just worked a greater miracle for us. From no fish, he had given us each one. Five fish. For five priests. From a day of catching nothing.

Once he discovered that we were five priests, Norberto hung around with us through most of our dinner. He had brought a lot of joy into our lives that day by giving us his fish, and perhaps we brightened his day with our conversation.

As I savored the last few bites of that delicious, charcoal-grilled trout, I thanked God for once more showing me and my companions how much He loves us. It sure was easy to get down after about the hundredth unsuccessful cast, but God just wanted to show us that He’s in charge and He is a better fisherman than we are.

Isn’t that the lesson God is often trying to teach us through all our worryings? We are so little and can do so little on our own, but He can do everything. He can – loves to – work through what seem to us to be the most impossible of situations. Through it all, He’s patiently waiting for the moment when we will patiently wait on Him, and really trust Him with all our heart.

Just the fact that I can go to Yellowstone and spend time on vacation I consider a tremendous gift from God. For Him to show His love through little miracles like the five miraculous fishes – well, it just makes me wonder what gift He has in store tomorrow. He always does.

May God bless you, and I hope you can go on vacation sometime soon!



About Fr Kevin McKenzie LC

Fr Kevin McKenzie LC comes from Saint Louis, Missouri from a family of nine. He spent the last five years studying Philosophy and Theology in Rome. Ordained a priest in December, he now helps as chaplain at a small Catholic school in Cincinnati, and on the weekends directs retreats for boys in southeastern Indiana.
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One Response to five fish for five priests

  1. Agnes Guillema says:

    As I was reading I was moved and mesmerized buy the beauty of God. I have felt what you have felt. Thank you very much for this wonderful sharing. God bless you too.

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