By: Rick Hernandez
Saint Ignatius of Loyola encourages us to make use of those things that can help bring us closer to God and leave aside those things that do not.
Some years ago, I was invited to a retreat at a well-known shrine. This shrine, in particular, has a beautiful but tiny chapel built on top of a tall hill. It was built in such a way that even over a long distance, it was easy to both see and discern that the chapel was to be our final destination.
If we were to follow the vehicular road, it would have been effortless to go up from the entrance directly to the chapel, but if you were to take the walking trails, you would have to wander quite a bit before you get to the final destination.
Along the meandering walkway were beautiful gardens, towering statues, memorial plaques with poems and prayers, and crosses, both simple and ornate... All these places were there to help break the monotony of the walk and help us focus on why we were walking there.
Every stop invited us to slow down and contemplate our faith. Eventually, and with some effort, we would move away from the beautiful cove and resume our trek upwards. Finally, after much effort, we would arrive atop the hill and lay eyes on the beautiful chapel with its scarce seats.
The recompense for the arduous journey was to meet our Lord, Christ Eucharistic, exposed in the Blessed Sacrament atop the simple wooden altar.
We then had the opportunity to practice our love and our humility. We would kneel before our Lord, present our effort as an offering, and adore our Lord for a few minutes, rejoicing in his Real Presence among us.
The view from the top of the hill invited us to contemplate the beauty of creation. We could see the green and blue of the mountains, the many beautiful mature trees, and the myriad colors of all the blooming flowers. Looking to the horizon, we would see the vast sea in its full blueness, almost merging with the crystalline blue of the sky. The sky was so close you felt as if you could touch the clouds. It was very affirming to be there.
What I appreciated the most was the silence, only broken by the murmurs of the wind... Peace...
It all invited us to stop and try to understand the meaning of our driven journey. God is with us in everything, but it is our concerted effort toward Him, that search that allows us to find Him. Our effort this one time resulted in finding Christ Himself present for us in the Blessed Sacrament.
No one that sincerely looks for Christ is left unaided; it is just that the journey may not be for all of us a direct one...
Sometimes the path up the mountain contains many wrong turns and even some dead ends. Yet, these are all, at the end of the day, experiences.
These are experiences that God allows us to have. Like the path up the hill at the shrine, sometimes you find what feels like a wondrous place, a place where you may even want to stay, a fantastic experience, but no matter how great that place is, we cannot indeed stay there.
Any place we are at where we have not been called to by Christ may be incredibly inspiring but ultimately can only become a distraction as it is neither the final goal nor the final destination.
We must stop and appreciate the discovery, but then we must continue our journey. We store these precious things in our hearts and move on yet again to the path so we may journey closer to Christ himself atop his holy mountain.
Our lives are our journey. Our destination is Christ himself. We must look at the world and appreciate its beauty, but do it with the detachment Saint Ignatius mentions. Make use of it, grow, and continue the journey. May we be rewarded with finding exactly where Christ wants us to be.
Let us pray: Lord, we are your called ones. Help us to seek You and help us to find You even among all the distractions of the world. Help us to see your mighty hand in all things and receive your direction so that we may grow in focus towards the goal of sharing our very lives with You. That we may grow saintly and meet You atop your holy mountain. Amen.