I was bound to return to Zurich, Switzerland on April 22nd having spent a blessed Easter weekend in Padova. Short on budget, I was lucky to get a special deal on train tickets from Zurich to Padova as Easter was peak travel season in Italy. To return to Zurich, I had to change trains in Milan but I had only 10 minutes to spare as the earlier trains were fully booked, so every minute counted.
I didn't have a good feeling that day so I went to the Padova train station in the morning to check if there were any last minute seats on the earlier trains. My experience with the Northern Italian trains have been good, but it was better to be safe than sorry as I was on a tight schedule and budget.
The guy at the counter told me that the earlier trains were overbooked and I could change tickets for a price, but there was no guarantee I would get a seat on the train. Plus I had to give up my guaranteed reservation with the 17.15 train. The other possibility was to leave for Milan in the next hour with a guaranteed seat booking but it was too soon. I felt it a waste of a day if I left too early for Milan train station and I would rather spend more time in Padova. So I decided to keep my existing reservation and take my chances that there would be no delays as usual. The guy at the counter smiled and assured me that my train would be on time for me to catch my connecting train to Zurich. So far there were no delays in the morning despite the Easter rush hour.
Anyway, I did return to the Basilica and prayed to St Anthony for guidance and a smooth journey home. I didn't like pestering anyone for small favours and it seemed trivial to pray for such a small thing like a smooth journey. But I decided to surrender anyway as I didn't have a choice.
I returned to the hotel and rested. My train would leave at 17:15 so I would have plenty of time to walk back to the station. But I felt nervous somehow, so I decided to leave for the train station early. When I got there, a crowd of people were looking anxiously at the announcement boards. To my horror, I saw that most of the trains have been delayed by at least 30 mins up to 2 hours. Underneath, the board announced that all trains to and from all major train stations such as Venice, Rome, Napoli, Bologna, Trieste have encountered delays up to 2 hours because a person was hit by a train. My train was coming from Venice, so my heart sank and I knew there would be a delay – even a mere 5 minute delay would mean I that I could narrowly miss my connecting train. So much for a smooth journey.
To top everything, I couldn't connect my phone to the internet so it was hard for me to plan any options. Luckily a kind young man lent me his phone. There was another late train to Zurich from Milan, the last one for the day, but it was also fully booked – so the only other option was for me to spend a night in Milan and purchase a new ticket back to Zurich next morning. That would have cost me a bomb. So my last resort was to spend a night at the train station sleeping on a bench.
I wanted to cry out loud – what's with this Easter ? Why all the deaths – in Sri Lanka – and now a person killed by a train. Why didn't I leave Padova in the morning against my better judgement. Oh right, because I wanted to go with the flow and I trust my journey with St Anthony.
The young man saw I was distraught and offered to check my train schedule on the internet in advance of the station board. Surprised, he told me that no delays have been announced yet for the Milan bound train. Every other train, even the local trains have been delayed by at least 10 mins.
I held my breath and waited until 17:00 when the board would officially show the departure time for Milan.
The rosters turned and out of 10 trains – 9 were scheduled for delays – all except the Milan bound train. I couldn't believe it but I still wasn't hopeful so I decided to wait at the platform to see if the train was actually on schedule. I asked the people on the platform if they knew whether the train would be on time. One guy shrugged, and said "Who knows ? It's supposed to be on schedule – but every train has been delayed so far".
At about 17:15 from the horizon, I saw my train arriving – I couldn't believe it, it was actually on schedule and not a minute late. I didn't understand – how on Earth was it possible that my train from Venice to Milan is on schedule when every other train had encountered delays. Everyone was scrambling to get to the doors. As I got on the train, I felt like crying – I fell on my seat, exhausted from the anxiety. And I thanked St Anthony profusely. But I was far from relieved, as I still needed to be on schedule in Milan to catch my connecting train with only 10 minutes to spare. With 4 stops in between, I held my breath every time we departed and every time the train was on schedule – all except the 4th stop – the train departed 7 minutes later. Which means I only had 3 minutes to spare.
So I decided to walk to the front of the train and to get off the platform as soon as we reached Milan so that I can sprint to my connecting train as fast as I can. I could feel the train speeding moving faster and faster – as if it was racing against time for my sake. I decided not to look at the schedules anymore and surrendered to St Anthony.
As we were reaching Milan Station, a kind elderly man offered to check the schedules for my connecting train on his phone. He had already missed his connecting train but he told me I'd be alright and I would catch my train. He told me it was leaving from Platform 8, to my right. I thanked him profusely. We finally reached Milan and with 3 minutes to spare – I sprinted out of the door like a mad woman – saw my train to Zurich and sprinted on. I had hoped this train would be delayed – but no – it departed 2 minutes after I boarded punctually.
My heart was beating fast and when I finally found my seat – I felt a great sense of relief. I finally made it – I knew I was not supposed to be on this train – and I was not supposed to be sleeping in my own bed when I reached home later that night – but I knew that the only reason St Anthony wouldn't let me rebook to an earlier train was because I needed to be shown a miracle against all odds and logical thinking. And I know that I would always cherish this as my own personal Easter miracle.
Thank you N.L. for your wonderful story of trust in the intercession of Good St. Anthony. Have a St. Anthony story of your own to share? Email it to us and we will share it on our blog~