Our life is a journey. This really makes the path an exceptional challenge for me. I am notoriously directionally challenged and seem to frequently find myself lost when navigating new destinations. Saint Christopher has become a worthy and steadfast companion for me to this end.
It is interesting that as a “Cradle Catholic” and “mostly” practicing one, I always thought the path was familiar. I believed that I was steering my life along the right direction. Then one day someone entered my life and a metamorphosis began with my Spirit.
We all know how difficult change is for the human spirit. People are very resistant and show a true recalcitrance when exposed to something new, especially when it is a force that challenges in a peculiar and provocative way. That exposure can be very intimidating to some and difficult. Fortunately, our Gospel writers have taught us that Jesus is an expert at navigating through storms, if we keep our eyes and focus on Him. Remember, when Peter lost his focus while walking on the water, he began to sink and drown. What we often and typically find on the other side of these storms, as with Noah, is a bright and beautiful rainbow.
A little over a year ago, our new Pastor introduced a book to the Parish, and offered a free copy to all. The book was “Home Sweet Rome” by Scott Hahn. I picked up the book one Sunday after Mass, brought it home, and sat it down on a shelf. I am an avid reader. One Saturday morning I found myself without a new novel to start, after completing a James Patterson thriller. I noticed the copy of “Home Sweet Rome”, sitting innocuously on my shelf. I relented and supposing to find the book quite boring and uneventful, acquiesced to read a few pages. I was hoping to avoid a trip to the library but figured it was an inevitable destination. I was hooked from the first page of that book, and finished it by noon the next day. I have not been the same since, and I haven’t since picked up another James Patterson novel.
The book outlines a conversation story; the conversion story of a very prominent and well educated Protestant Theologian and Professor. A convert who was once a vigorous anti-Catholic and who came to his transformation unwittingly and quite ambivalently. What this story taught me was I had a lot to learn and understand; and that I undervalued the great gift of my Catholic faith.
What this book revealed to me was enlightening and surprising. I realized that this journey I have been on was really not so familiar at all. I realized I needed a better map and a need to become a more proficient map reader. Shortly after finishing this book, I was exposed to even more resources that had been introduced to the parish – Symbolon-online classes, Church History courses, Theology of the Body, DVDs from Lighthouse Media, and more books, to name a few. These resources were coupled with a common message thread and call to prayer and accountability.
I recognized my prayer practice was terrible. I had a non-existent commitment to the practice. At the same time, I had uncovered a passage from the book “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” by Matthew Kelly. In the book he suggests that a committed prayer life enables everything else in life to fall into the proper place and perspective.
My first step was the Rosary. I realized that I didn’t even know or recognize how to complete the prayers. I also couldn’t remember a time in my adult life of practicing this meditation.
I went to the internet, looked it up, learned it, and began reciting it daily. What I uncovered was a beautiful relationship with Jesus and our Blessed Mother. I began to apprehend that you cannot cultivate a friendship and relationship with only occasional conversation and devotion. This relationship is like any other, it requires dedication, attention, and time. I had engaged a relationship with our Father and Mother through Baptism and my rote Catholic practices, but the bond for me was a superficial one. What is truly remarkable, as your prayer life develops and strengthens, all the other avenues of your soul and spirit blossom and awaken. The journey becomes a whirlwind of fascination and faithfulness. It will crescendo with an earnestness and devoutness that is consuming.
I encountered a life event during this time period, an event that directed me even more fully to participation in the Sacraments and all the other practices, rituals, and traditions of the Church. The Church, through which Jesus Christ, has bestowed on us many precious gifts; gifts that will lead us into full communion with Him. That event, as painful as it was, I found to be a blessing, because it propelled me even deeper into my oneness with our Creator.
I am still on this journey. What has changed for me now, is Jesus is my co-pilot. He is my GPS. I have surrendered and He navigates my life. Sometimes, I don’t like the neighborhood He has me travel through. Sometimes I doubt and question His directions, but I don’t get lost so much anymore. I notice the signs now that He sends me to assure me of my approach. He always validates His will for me. I feel His presence in my life every day in a very real way and notice His supernatural interactions with me. This is something that you don’t recognize without the foundation of a relationship built on daily prayer and meditation. It is the most amazing and wonderful marriage. One that is not expensive monetarily, but it is the most valuable and eternal bond you will ever foster. It deserves priority and commitment. It will bring more to your life and take you to destinations that you never imagined. It is a treasure which will lead to the ultimate haven that our hearts desire in this life and the one to come.