Another Rule of the Road

going it alone

To pick up where I left off yesterday, another rule of the Road is that during your journey many will join you, and many will fall away. Indeed you yourself are one of those people for someone else as they make their own journey.

My wife’s aunt died last night after a battle with breast cancer. She and her husband Ray had one child, a daughter who graduated from high school this past spring. Mandi and her dad will now continue their journey, minus the companionship of their beloved wife and mom.

During their ascent up the stairs at Cirith Ungol and into Mordor, it occurs to Sam that the tale he and Frodo have been put in is not a thing isolated from the past, but is instead the continuation of a tale that began long ago in the First Age of Middle Earth:

“Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales ever end?”

“No, they never end as tales,” said Frodo. “But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later—or sooner.”

(The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter viii.)

Only God can see the whole picture and every detail within the picture at the same time. As for us on our journey we must learn to trust the Lord of the Road. One of the ways I’ve learned to do that is by praying the Divine Office each day when I can. Each day as part of Morning Prayer (Lauds) we pray the Canticle of Zechariah from Luke’s gospel. Near the end of this piece of Scripture is this passage:

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Buoyed by these words I am able to continue my walk each day with an open heart and an open mind. The “dawn from on high” does break and my feet are guided along the way. My decisions are still my own, yet I’m not alone when I make them even as companions come and go.

The greatest book I know of to take along for this journey is the psalter. Within the psalms are thoughts and prayers for every situation. The years have taught me this.

As I prayed this morning before driving to work these words from Psalm 143 resonated with me:

In the morning let me know your love
for I put my trust in you.
Make me to know the way I should walk:
to you I lift up my soul.

Requiescat in pace, Sherri.

The Road

Jeff Walker:

For the first time in the two weeks since our oldest left for boot camp and I started my new job I allowed myself to pause for breath last night. What I discovered is that I’d managed to keep myself so busy with a new job and new running program that I had kept my mind and heart off of his absence. This despite seeing a bunch of photos of his friends, now in college, attending fall socials, college football games and such. Of messages and plans made by this year’s crop of senior parents as they begin the home stretch towards their children’s graduation (was it really only a year ago we were there, too?). Of pictures on Facebook posted by some of his best friends of scenes of them together last year. Of a suddenly more empty house, where I comfort a sad beagle and remain strong and upbeat for the other humans in the house.

But last night, for the first time, it got really hard, and I allowed myself to breathe.

I’ve joined a few online groups and forums for new recruit parents. It helps. We talk about the mixture of emotions we endure as military parents: on one side a fierce, strong pride. On the other is a melancholy anxiety, even fear.

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot lately about the journey, or pilgrimage, that I am taking. Last night I began reading a book that I can just tell I’m going to enjoy, and am reblogging a passage from it below. I had considered posting it to my main blog but thought it fit with the theme of my other too-long-neglected part of the internet. It fits with where I’m at right this very minute on my journey.

On The Road.

Originally posted on Rides the Sun:

The path on The Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree taken by  the author in Sept. 2014.

The path on The Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree taken by the author in Sept. 2014.

… That’s one of the things that fairy tales teach us: that we are all heroes or princesses in disguise. And if that is so, then we must all set out to discover who we truly are: not so we can become rich or successful in the debased modern, consumerist sense, but so that we can step into our true inheritance.

The Road is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but it offers to those who embrace it the rare and precious gift of self-knowledge. It forces us to step outside that which is known—outside of our “comfort zone” we would say today—and, by doing so, strips us of all our masks and disguises and alter egos. It forces us to look unswervingly into the face of fear, of confusion, of loneliness, reduces us…

View original 110 more words

Friday Five – Volume 89

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

Autumn is, much like the spring, a season of transformation. Thus it has been for me. My oldest away at boot camp while I have a new job, new schedule, and am taking art lessons as well as having started running three times a week. I finally found an app worth paying for and shelled out $1.99 for the Couch to 5K app on my iPhone. (Their website says the app is also available for the Android system). So far I’m really enjoying it. As a former college athlete who was never mistaken for a runner I was still capable of running two miles in under 12 minutes. But that was over twenty years ago and decades of sitting behind a desk and becoming preoccupied with other things kept me pretty sedentary. I still have a goal of walking the Camino across northern Spain in three years. It’s time to get moving.

— 2 —

Here’s my choice of “soundtrack” for you to listen to as you read the rest of this post. To be honest I haven’t been able to stop listening to it a few times per day.

It seems that the translation is difficult to find online, and the best I could find was on Orthodox Wiki. I do not know if this is the actual lyrics or not. I can’t get enough of that bass though. Glorious.

Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify. (Thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
And Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.
Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.

— 3 —

One of the other changes to my schedule has been my re-enrollment in the King’s Men. I’ve pledged a visit at least once per week to the Pink Sisters chapel in the middle of Lincoln. I was a member years ago before my work schedule (and location) gave me an excuse to stop going. I went back a few hours after seeing my son off to boot camp. I returned again this week and found myself wondering how on earth I managed to stay away this long.

They pray for priests. They pray for God’s help and comfort following floods and earthquakes. They pray for an end to war. They pray for individuals who are sick or unemployed or mourning or spiritually lost. They uphold the Diocese of Lincoln and the universal Church in constant communion with the Lord.

Affectionately called “the Pink Sisters” in reference to their rose-colored robes that represent joy, these cloistered sisters came to the Diocese of Lincoln in 1973 at the invitation of Bishop Glennon P. Flavin.

The bishop gave up his own residence to serve as their convent. In 1980, he oversaw the construction of a chapel adjacent to the convent, the Eucharist Church of Christ the King.

I pray for many things while there. In particular this month I am reminded to pray for souls.

YES, I KNOW NOVEMBER
(for All Soul’s Day)

by Hilary M. Flanery

Yes, I know November
The tolling of the bell,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
From mountain top to dell.

The chilly, gray, damp mornings
The rusting of the leaves,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
Like moans from one who grieves.

And in the windy noon-time
When clouds fight ‘gainst sun’s might,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
Cry, “Sanctuary light!”

So ‘fore the red-glassed candle,
Compelled I go to pray,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
Plead, “Sacrifice today!”

Now deep, dark sanctuary
Is lit by candle bold,
The whispers of the suf’ring souls…
“Your prayers are autumn gold!”

So like the leaves of autumn
I fall to kneeling posture
The whispers of the suf’ring souls
Beg, “Say a Pater Noster!”

The flicker in the red glass
Burns hotter now with Creed.
Oh, yes, I know November!
The month of Hope…souls freed!

— 4 —

Behold! The 100 Best Christian Books website.

I own or have read seven of the first ten, and fifteen of the top twenty-five. The list is pretty darned good I’d say, from Saint Augustine to Simone Weil. Compiled by judges for the Anglican newspaper Church Times, each book listed has a brief summary, author information and comments by the judges and contributors. It’s worth having a look.

— 5 —

I have so many video clips I’ve stored to share over the past few weeks that I briefly considered posting five videos today and calling it good. I’ve decided to same some for next week (or stand-alone posts) but am going to add one more here. In the book Keeping Company with Saint Ignatius the author speaks more than once about an alternative pilgrimage. Instead of walking the thousand year old Camino de Santiago which is becoming more and more overcrowded with pilgrims, he suggests walking the Ignatian Camino. This trek isn’t quite as long as the 800+km walk across Spain, but at 640km is still a good hike. As I’ve felt an ever-growing kinship with Íñigo López de Loyola and wish to avoid huge crowds I’m going to be doing more research on going this route instead. The Ignatian Way recreates the route that he took in 1522 from Loyola to Manresa.

There is a lot more information on the official website and the video below.

The Bonfires of November

When I was a small boy growing up in a very small South Dakota town I always looked forward to this time of year because of the smells. Autumn just has a certain aroma: pumpkin spices, cookies and caramels, turkey and stuffing. But that’s just the food. I’m also referring to the crisp, chilled air of autumn that is all about the earth: the dirt of gardens plowed under for the winter, decaying leaves and moist grass beneath them, and of course, the bonfires.

angel leaves 600x800In our tiny town of two hundred villagers almost every yard contained raked mounds of leaves prepared for the burning. While some of us did carry the leaves into large metal trash barrels near the alley and set them ablaze, I recall, too, the smoldering, smoking leaves burning where they were piled on our lawn. Next to the pile I stood holding a rake that was too big for me, dressed in blue jeans, boots and layers of shirts with a knit cap, sniffling and wiping my nose with the back of my sleeve. My younger brother, aged six, stood nearby with ruddy cheeks, while our youngest brother, aged two, was sitting in the next pile to be burned, covering himself in the leaves recently shed from their trees.

I awoke this morning, refreshed by the extra hour of sleep thanks to the end of daylight savings time, and stood by my patio door with a steaming cup of coffee to watch the yellow, red and brown leaves rain onto our lawn. After praying Morning Prayer I reached for a book I do not read often enough to see if Monsignor Ronald Knox, an Anglican convert to the Catholic Church who lived from 1888-1957, had written something for me to meditate upon before the other occupants of my house awoke and the morning quiet disappeared. I purchased a collection of his sermons nine years ago when Ignatius Press had it on sale and over the years have become an admirer of his prolific and beautiful writing. I wasn’t disappointed on this morning. After pulling the heavy book from my shelf and scanning the table of contents I found his sermon for All Souls Day and smiled when I saw that he, too, was thinking of bonfires. An excerpt is below.

*****

But we mustn’t forget the bonfire! Don’t let us allow November to be ushered in without the bonfire, the natural sacrament of the dying year. The dying year, mark you, not the dead year. The year lies dead in January, under its shroud of white and its pall of black skies; but November is a transition stage between the golden glories of its maturity and the silver fineries of its funeral. And because the year is drawing to its end, we occupy ourselves in tidying up. Those leaves, whose violent emerald colour we welcomed so when they first sprang in March; those leaves, that made such a riot of restfulness over us and around us in the summer; those leaves, that autumn showed us beautiful even in decay, a golden ceiling over our heads till they fell, a golden carpet under our feet when they were fallen; they have lost, now, even the splendours of their maturity; they lie brown and damp underfoot, an unwelcome reminder of our decay. Sweep them up, then, and carry them to the bonfire. For the year is passing, and we must tidy up.

Most of us, I suppose, when we were small, didn’t care much for tidying up—at least, if we were brought up to put away our toys on Saturday night. It gave a chill finality to the end of the week—almost a premonition of death, that last, solemn Saturday night when all our toys have to be put away. We scoured the room half-heartedly, working under orders; and, when the last dragoon had been restored to his long-lost charger, and the last elephant had folded its reluctant legs into the Noah’s Ark, we turned away with a sense of duty done, indeed, but a sense, too, of regret at the law that will not let our games last forever. But the bonfire in November, at the great tidying-up of the year—that was a very different matter! Here was rich, pungent smoke rising, it is true, from a heap of refuse, but how satisfying to the nostrils! How it invited us to rush, breathlessly, through its fragrant eddies. And there was always the chance that you might find a potato or two somewhere, to roast on the embers. That tidying-up was worth having.

People are always telling us that our Christian festivals and fasts are only heathen festivals and fasts that have survived with altered names and altered ceremonies; but I take comfort sometimes in the fact that our All Souls’ Day, anyhow, is in bonfire month, in November. The ancients, too, had their Day of the Dead; but the Romans and Greeks, at least, the only ancient peoples for whom I can answer, celebrated it in February, and very naturally. For in February the year is dead; bare trees and sighing winds make us think of our end and the short time of our earthly passage. But that is not our Christian tradition. We think of our dead in November, the tidying-up of the year. For, when death separates us from the toys of earth, our souls are still such that there is a work of tidying-up to do. And, as St. Paul warns us, that process can only be effected “so as by fire”. There are still the leaves to be burnt.

Pastoral and Occasional Sermons by Ronald Knox. (Ignatius Press, 2002) “All Souls”, pp. 533-534.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo Credits
Photo 1: an angel flowerpot surrounded by leaves in the author’s front yard and taken last fall.
Photo 2: Morningside Cemetery, an almost completely forgotten pioneer cemetery in southeastern South Dakota. This photo was taken by the author in March 2005. The bones of my ancestors lie beneath the cold Dakota prairie.

Friday Five – Volume 88 (Pilgrimage Edition)

Friday Five-Mere Observations

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

— 1 —

And so a new journey begins. For my oldest son, who today is undergoing what’s known for Marine recruits as “Black Friday”, the day they meet their drill instructors for the first time. He left Monday for boot camp and has been mostly going through receiving these first few days: paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. Today his journey really starts.

I’ve written before of how I see life as a pilgrimage. I am not alone in this as many before me have done the same. I think I first began to think of life in this way when I first read The Pilgrim’s Progress just after college. It has held true for me ever since, this life-view of mine, and so it was that this week another path was taken, a fork in the road, and I began my walk down into the unknown that lay ahead.

One of my favorite saints saw life this way as well. Last night while finishing up Luke Larson’s book Keeping Company with Saint Ignatius I highlighted this paragraph:

Ignatius’s mini-pilgrimages are instructive for those of us who desire our own. First, he left his cave. Likewise, it is good for us from time to time to step away from all that is comfortable—and confining—in our caves. This includes our large screen television, laptop, tablet, e-reader, and, yes, even our smart phone. Second, Ignatius had an intention, a purpose. Ours might be to seek guidance, forgiveness, healing, love, or simply the opportunity to walk in the company of Jesus for a few blocks. And third, Ignatius had a destination. Ours might be a local church, shrine, grotto, convent, monastery, or other place market by God’s fingerprints. The place is not as important as the ability to check out of the “too busy” of our lives and to recharge our spiritual batteries while there—and while on the way.

― Keeping Company with Saint Ignatius: Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, by Luke J. Larson, pages 146-47.

The  path on The Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree.

The path on The Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree.

— 2 —

Our son’s exit from home was hard on all of us though we knew it was coming eventually. His little brother has had the most difficult time followed by his mom and his beagle. But life goes on and as the week has unfolded adjustments have been made.

As for me the best decision I’ve made in a long time was the one that lead me down the path to my new job. In the first three days I’ve felt more alive, fulfilled and productive than I have in many years. I relish the opportunities ahead and feel reenergized. One of the plusses is that my commute is now four minutes instead of thirty. This leaves me time to attend daily Mass (which I’ll begin next week) and pray Morning Prayer. I am doing this at home for now but intend to begin praying it out loud at my parish prior to the 8:15 school Mass at some point later on.

Again from Larson’s book (page 149):

I savored Lauds in the early mornings, Mass at midmorning, and Vespers in the early evenings in the Basilica at the Abbey of Santa María de Montserrat, followed by hymns sung by students of the world famous L’Escolania choir school. My mind could not understand the words chanted in Catalan, the official language of Catalonia, yet the psalms and prayers of the monks transcended linguistic barriers to fill my soul with their sacredness and beauty.

After fourteen years of praying the Liturgy of the Hours in silence or in quiet recitation I have begun to chant Lauds with the aid of The Mundelein Psalter, a book I purchased last week. I’ve been a little wobbly out of the starting gate but with practice comes confidence and I think I’m getting better. While still far from eliciting such a dramatic response as the monks did for Larson at the Abbey, I think given time and after being joined by others we will be able to add a beautiful element to this prayer at our parish. Simply chanting them at home by myself before work has done wonders.

Just another leg of the journey.

stations path-rosary

— 3 —

Of course today is All Hallow’s Eve, with All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2) right behind. Part of our pilgrimage is of course death, but from death comes new life as well. Autumn never fails to put me in a reflective mood about the journey ahead as well as those people I’ve known who have already departed for that leg of the trip. This year has been no different, and while he didn’t die our son’s departure again brought this to mind. After he was sworn in we stood together for a family photo taken by the mother of another recruit. Just before the photo was taken my wife looked at our second son who was sobbing, and naturally she began to cry, and despite several attempts at a photo of her not crying we were not successful. Finally after 5-6 attempts our oldest son said “Jeez, I’m not dead.”

He’s right of course, which is why I laughed out loud on Wednesday when I received a photo text from my wife. Her sister’s family had very thoughtfully sent an arrangement of flowers to our home. When I opened the photo on my phone and read the card it said “Thinking of You.”

I thought of our son’s words, and laughed.

— 4 —

From an article over at Dappled Things by Diana Von Glahn comes this snippet:

When I used to teach CCD to little third graders at Our Lady of Malibu, I used to explain Purgatory like this:

Imagine you’re going about your day, wearing your normal, everyday clothes. You eat a PB&J sandwich and a little jelly falls on your shirt–because it always does. You wipe it off and don’t worry about the stain. As you play outside with your friends, you trip and fall in the grass and, oh darn! You have a grass stain on your knee! Whatever. Mom can wash it later. When someone hands you a mango, you eat it up, slurpily, and wipe your hands on your pants because no one has a napkin and, whatever! They’re messy already, right?!

Then imagine that you go home, and your mom tells you that JESUS is coming over for dinner! And he’s bringing the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit, too! Oh, and God the Father is coming, as well . . .

Do you stay in those dirty, sloppy clothes?

HECK NO! You go upstairs and change right away into the cleanest, nicest clothes you have. You brush your teeth and hair, too. Can’t be clean enough for the Trinity.

That, my friends, is Purgatory.

— 5 —

I have gone on record for several years now in saying that The Butterfly Circus is one of the most beautiful pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen.

Until now. You must watch Crescendo.

It should not have surprised me to learn that the same man involved in The Butterfly Circus was also involved in this film: Eduardo Verástegui. And just as that film said more in its twenty minute length than most feature-length blockbusters, so too does this brief fifteen minute leg of our pilgrimage.

__________

Photo credits: The author.

 

No Regrets

changes and regret

Saturday night will be the last night my oldest son spends under the roof of our home. Well, for a while at least. Late afternoon on Sunday he will depart for Omaha to spend the night as he begins processing for his departure to boot camp. Monday morning I and the rest of his family will see him off as he begins his career in the Marine Corps.

Change.

His younger brother and sister have been counting down the days to his departure. Brother will move downstairs to occupy the briefly vacated bedroom. Sister will at long last have a bedroom all to herself. The bedroom that was originally painted for the two boys will be painted for a girl, though her color choices of pink, purple, red and white may be tempered a bit. It will be the first time for both of them that they have a room all to themselves.

Change.

We’ll be back home by late morning. I’ve taken the day off so I’ll probably putter around the house and try to keep myself busy. Perhaps in a book while sitting outside enjoying what has been an idyllic autumn thus far in Nebraska. Or maybe I’ll head to a bookstore. Most likely I’ll be found on my knees at either the Pink Sisters chapel or at our parish.

At some point late on Monday night/early Tuesday morning we’ll receive a 15-second phone call from him letting us know he made it and that this would be the last time we heard his voice until we travel to San Diego in January to see him graduate and be recognized for the first time as a Marine.

haybales

On Tuesday I’ll go to work at my new job. My last day at the one I’ve had for almost six years is tomorrow. And so will end eleven plus years in the world of corporate IT.

I’ve been looking to make the change for about a year. While I’m not ungrateful at all for the job I’ve held, or the great people I’ve worked with, I’ve not felt challenged for quite some time. I am not allowed to use any creativity (which accounts for my seeking other outlets such as writing as well as the art classes I began to take last month). And so for almost six years I’ve done the same thing, day in and day out, working on things which provide no stimulation, or spark, or even incentive. Or I should say: challenging but not edifying. So I began to think about a change, because life is short. I’m excited about the opportunity and challenges ahead.

And if my son is taking a risk in the pursuit of his passion, then why shouldn’t I as well?

Change.

Over the weekend we visited both sets of grandparents so they could say goodbye to him. Harvest is in full swing so he joined his uncles in the fields and made a few rounds in the combine, just as he did when he first made a round at the age of four. His sister joined him for her first trip through the dried corn fields.

corn

Change.

I drove my final 90-minute requirements meeting on Tuesday.

I’ve walked the last requirements spec document I’ll ever write.

I’ve just created and posted the final test plans for which I’m responsible.

There was to be a follow-up meeting this afternoon. Due to the fact that Tuesday’s meeting went so well and the crush of everyone’s schedule it was deemed unnecessary. I canceled it this morning.

And then I walked a few blocks to Starbucks and The Cookie Company one last time. I said my goodbyes to Karen, the woman who has been making my peppermint mochas since I got addicted to them four years ago. I went next door and purchased a large macadamia nut cookie. I began to clean out the desk I’ve occupied for just shy of six years.

My son’s new adventure begins for him on Monday.

Mine starts on Tuesday. The son has inspired the father.

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus said five centuries before the birth of Christ:

“The only thing that is constant is change.”

For that much I’m grateful.

No regrets.

goodbye shadow

__________

Photo credits: The final three images were taken by the author.

Friday Five – Volume 87

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

Season Five of the popular television series “The Walking Dead” debuted last Sunday. It wasn’t watched in our house as we did away with our satellite feed eleven months ago. Here’s one popular blogger’s description of what I missed:

In the first half-hour alone, there were was a huge explosion and raging fire, four executions by throat-slitting, numerous shots of humans butchered for cannibal feasts, zombies eating screaming people alive, Rick shivving two people in the throat and then machine-gunning another four in the back, and Carol smearing herself with a corpse’s entrails. The second half-hour brought us the Terminus henchman threatening to snap an infant’s neck before being beaten literally to death by Tyreese, followed by Carol hearing harrowing tales of rape from another Terminus flunky before shooting her in the thigh and leaving her to be ripped apart by the undead. Oh, right — there were also more allusions to serial rape in the episode’s final minutes. Basically, the entire 60 minutes was a sneak preview of daily life in ISIS’s caliphate. A show that’s forever threatening to put you to sleep decided to wake you up by punching you in the face repeatedly, and I gotta say — I kinda liked it.

I’m quoting this not to condemn or criticize those who are fans of the show, but merely to synthesize what we feed ourselves. For full disclosure I should mention that I watched the abbreviated first season’s six episodes, but stopped watching about halfway through season two.

I feel compelled to ask: How can anyone deny that we are immersing ourselves in a Culture of Death when this, and other things like it are celebrated in our media and pop culture? We moan and complain that someone has to be held accountable or responsible for the downward spiral of our society, yet who is ready or willing to hold themselves accountable?

*****

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful,
or believe to be beautiful. 
—William Morris

I wrote this quote down recently in my journal having read it somewhere that I cannot remember. Morris is talking about our houses, but I think it also applies to our souls. It echoes what St. Paul wrote to the church members at Philippi:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

So with that in mind here are a few selected journal jottings from my recent retreat.

— 2 —

Imagine a clear, still lake. You can see a mirror reflection of the opposite shore and skyline in the still water that is as smooth as glass. Imagine a single, small pebble tossed onto the lake and the image being distorted by the ripple. The circular rings gradually growing in size and spreading over the mirror and disrupting the reflected image.

This is like the effect of sin on the human soul.

*****

Post-lunch: I’m sitting with my eyes closed on the patio behind the dining hall. There is nothing like the sound of the South Dakota wind—through the trees, leaves, tall grasses—nothing. It’s the same as it was when I was a small boy lying on my back listening under the big blue skies with the puffiest white clouds in a field on my grandparent’s farm with their dog Smokey sitting beside me as my arm rested on his warm back.

The silence is so loud.

patio at broom tree

*****

It was not nearly as dark inside St. Isadore’s tonight as it was two years ago. Has my “spiritual eyesight” improved?

— 3 —

Cadgwith
By Lionel Johnson (1867-1902)

My windows open to the autumn night,
In vain I watch’d for sleep to visit me;
How should sleep dull mine ears, and dim my sight,
Who saw the stars, and listen’d to the sea?

Ah! How the City of our God is fair.
If, without sea and starless though it be:
For joy of the majestic beauty there,
Man shall not miss the stars not mourn the sea.

I read the second half of this poem in the forward to a book I brought on my retreat. It was not identified, and a quick search on the internet revealed the rest of the poem, its name and author.

We do not need to be on a remote, rural retreat to experience beauty in God’s creation. It is our responsibility, however, to slow ourselves down. To talk to our Creator through the use of prayer. To listen.

We must find an oasis of prayer in our spiritual desert pilgrimage.

— 4 —

One of our final readings and meditations was on Luke 24:13-35: The Road to Emmaus. My scribblings and notes below.

“Stay with us.” (v.29)

“Stay with me.”

Commit to time with the Lord at some point each day. A mini-retreat.

Ask God to help me find time for that “oasis of prayer” each day. In addition to the Eucharist or in the Sacraments.

Where are those times I recognize the Lord?

When are the times I can’t see Him?

From “slow of heart” (v.25) to “hearts burning within us” (v.32). This is how it is for us if we are of the world too much and not making time for an oasis of prayer in our lives each day. The world dulls our spiritual senses and our heart slows. A retreat is one way to stoke the fires within again and cause our hearts to burn with love for our Lord.

I have been praying for God to grant me Fortitude, Wisdom, and Hope. This weekend he showed me how to have all three: Prayer. Deep, communal prayer.

— 5 —

#5 is a passage from a book I’m reading that combines two of my favorite subjects: St. Ignatius and the Camino de Santiago. The author is setting out on his trek accompanied by his wife Evie, and the company of saints he has asked to “walk” with him.

__________

Along with my chortling mother, I wanted to share the Camino experience with my younger brother. Growing up together I hated to share anything with the obnoxious, competitive creep. But then we did grow up and, as so often happens, became best friends.

Almost every workday Adam and I sent each other short e-mails, his from an office on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center in New York City. Regardless of the content of our messages, the subject lines always referenced Jack Daniel’s. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Adam’s message was cryptically entitled, “JDJDJackJDJDDanielsJDJD.” In it Adam noted that the account he was in the office early to work on that day “will be the end of me.” That fateful morning my brother and best friend, J. Adam Larson, became one of the casualties of the horrific terrorist attack on our country.

Ten years later, I continue to be consoled by words of Saint Ignatius, who considered all of life on earth a pilgrimage, with heaven as its destination.

If we had our fatherland and true peace in our sojourn in this world, it would be a great loss to us when persons or things which gave us so much happiness are taken away. But being as we are pilgrims on this earth, with our lasting city in the kingdom of heaven, we should not consider it a great loss when those whom we love in our Lord depart a little before us, for we shall follow them before long to the place where Christ our Lord and Redeemer has prepared for us a most happy dwelling in His bliss.

Keeping Company with Saint Ignatius: Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, by Luke J. Larson, pages 42-43.

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I, too, have come to see life as a pilgrimage. Many refer to it as a journey, and it surely is that. But there is a difference between the two. A journey is the act of traveling from one place to another. A pilgrimage is defined as being longer than a journey, with the destination being a sacred place.

In this life we may make several journeys. Not all of them will have an end destination defined and we’ll find ourselves simply floating on the stream of this life. I believe that every step (and even misstep) along the path is necessary and brings me closer to that sacred place in which I will share eternity.

I am a pilgrim.

A praying pilgrim.

*****

A Prayer for One’s Vocation in Life
Lord, make me a better person: more considerate toward others,
more honest with myself, more faithful to you.
Help me to find my true vocation in life and grant that through it
I may find happiness myself
and bring happiness to others.

(from The Manual of Prayers, p. 302.)