“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.
— 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.
— 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.