Road maps have always been fascinating works of art. They are drawn to scale and provide an aerial rendering of city locations, streets, highways, county lines, scenic markers, waterways, bridges, and bypasses. They give us a sense of how everything is connected and directional guidelines to help one arrive at a destination. In times past, one had to either attempt to read the map while driving, pull over to read the map, or memorize the route before getting on the road. Human beings have always benefitted from some type of navigational system; even as early as two hundred years BC, a rudimentary compass was used by the Chinese. For some travelers, the stars provided directional assistance while others observed natural landmarks or flight patterns of birds. For many, the position of the sun has helped to establish orientation. The invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS), a navigation device linked to orbiting satellites, has all but replaced the use of paper road maps, compasses, and natural markers when traveling. The modern tech-reliant generation is never lost. Or are we more lost than ever?
The opening lines of Dante’s Divine Comedy describe the poet’s feeling of being adrift halfway through his course of life when he writes:
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
And a few stanzas later he goes on to say…
I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.
Dante’s poem reminds us that there is a journey common to all humans, that of seeking direction toward God and toward eternal life in heaven - but at some point along the way, we may get lost or “abandon the true way” that way which leads us to our heavenly home. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a GPS device to keep us on track toward heaven? Perhaps there is no technological device (as yet) to help humanity arrive at our final destination, but we can consider some points that aid us along the way. Many advanced GPS systems highlight the advantages of using a satellite navigation system - these advantages can certainly apply to our journey to heaven.
Traffic data: Avoid traffic caused by people who are lost. There are many voices in the modern world that try to lead us away from God. A focused guide will help us to avoid the high volumes of mixed messages. The Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit for over two thousand years, has worked to guard us against the traffic of mixed messages, and to conduct us along the true way.
Spoken directions: Spoken directions help people to spend less time deciphering mixed messages and more time focused on the destination. Our church leaders, Pope Francis, the bishops, priests and religious continually speak to us from Scripture, from the gospel messages, and from sacred tradition to help us find our way. We need only to listen.
Hands-free navigation: The beauty of hands-free navigation is that we do not have to forge our own way; Christ did this for us. He is the way. We can safely place our trust in him and he will lead us to God, our Father. He has provided us with a conscience, the built-in inner navigation system, that tries to keep us on track; we need only to stay tuned-in.
Programmable and adaptable routes: In the event we encounter unexpected detours by having made the wrong choices, the Catholic Church provides us with many helpful guides to lead us back to the right path. The Sacraments, instituted by Christ, particularly the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, can redirect us back to our purposeful journey.
Internet connectivity: If we still feel lost and the need to connect with God, Christ, our Blessed Mother, or the saints - those that exist in heaven, or have found the way, prayer is our mode of connectivity. The saints have been where we have been, they have at times been lost, they have at times hit detours, but they not only returned to the right path, they continue to show us the way.
We have what we need to make our pilgrim journey to heaven - we have the Church that Jesus Christ established in order that we may never have to travel alone. In our earthly travels we may become lost by never using a map or plugging in our GPS, just as in our heavenly journey we can abandon the true way by neglecting to follow the universal positioning system given to us by our Lord and Savior.