Thoughts and my ramblings on paper has been massive since my return from Spain and the Camino. Pages and pages have fallen complete and mysteriously uplifted into the heavens of the internet that we call the Cloud, for safe-keeping and a return to earth at a future time for some good use to mankind. One such small collection of thoughts I recently found, and it seems appropriate to let them become the food by which men live and breathe, and so it offer this short essay.
In the Madrid Airport
I started this post while waiting for my airplane to depart from Gate A14. It’s supposed to leave at 9:30am, but I can see it’s delayed until a 10:10am take-off. Schedules have become quite relative to the condition anymore since walking the Camino. The phrase “in a hurry” has lost its meaning to a great degree. “In a hurry” for what? To get to work, to go shopping, to down my coffee because “I’ve got to get back out into that big, exciting world out there?”
Actually, I’m sitting in the Sala Cibelle, or VIP Lounge, of U.S. Airways, at the Barajas Aeropuerto, Madrid. It’s a very large space with multiple lounging and sitting areas, great views out to the airplanes, and plenty of food and drinks available for the asking. It’s 7:45am, and the lounge is empty, but for about four people and myself. Ironic isn’t it to my condition. I’m back in the civilized world of Madrid – it is a very strange feeling to have so many people about you, going in so many different directions – and everything has a schedule here. I’m essentially alone with my thoughts and my laptop in the middle of all of this.
In fact, my arrival to Madrid on a train yesterday afternoon was equally odd; for an American. The train was late in its arrival, and frankly, I was beginning to think I had the wrong ticket and was about to end up in some remote Spanish village that just happened to have the same name; Madrid. The view from the train up to mere minutes before we arrived at the Chamartin Train Station was of a barren, flat land of scrub and dirt. I mean, there was nothing out there, nothing at all. If it weren’t for the fact that the train was practically full, and I had to believe all these people were not going to a small village in the middle of nowhere, I would have pulled the emergency cord. And then suddenly, there we were, in the station, with the whole crowded world about me; “in a hurry”. I tell you, this is one of the main reasons I have had some trouble writing the final posts of my journey; this juxtaposition of the remote, the quiet, the solitary world of the pilgrim against the insistent, unforgiving, scheduled, massed existence of human entanglement. Having a little trouble wrapping my head around this one, and still trying to comprehend the message that’s been delivered quite distinctly to me. I’m beginning to understand what I have heard of; that there are pilgrims who never stop walking. Once they’ve arrived in Santiago, they simply turn around and head back – and forth, forever. And the simple reason is that, while their body and mind can go as it pleases in the physical world, their spirit resides with God, and He’s out there on the Camino for many, many pilgrims.
Of course, we all know that God is with us at all times, and in all places. I particularly find Psalms 139:7, the exhaustive form of trying to find a place in His creation where He will not be.
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
But, for most of mankind, that truth falls on deaf eyes and slow feet. Man seeks his own still waters and safe harbor in those places where he has found God before, and shuns those places where he believes he must work for something that has already been given. The pilgrim, many of us, are no different than anyone else in lacking that quality of perception by which we can perceive God’s presence in all things. The only difference is that we seek to break through that deficiency and become filled with His grace through conscious aspiration.
I Am Home
I am home now. I have just returned from morning Mass, and with great fortune, Mary & Bill Coakley, were there. We have been most fortunate for Kathryn & me to have the two of them acting as our sponsors through the Catholic R.C.I.A program and beyond. Their generosity, on all levels, have enriched our lives and strengthened our faith through good teaching. As we were leaving Mass, Bill asked me the million-dollar question. To paraphrase….
“So, did you find out what it is that God wants you to do with the rest of your life?”
The question did not congeal out of thin air. I had, probably on more than one occasion prior to my leaving for Spain, made good discourse on the several reasons why I had decided to take on this pilgrimage. One of those reasons was to seek God’s will for the remainder of my life, and to engage in a ministry in the physical world that would fulfill His will for me. I’m not talking about becoming clergy in the Church, but rather making my career and personal time a more effective ministry and more obvious; to take the idea of choice out of the equation by subjugating that choice to truth.
His question gave me pause, as if I was about to step out into NYC midtown traffic. Had I looked in both directions, or was I about to be berated by a cab driver for assuming too much of his noble profession? I thought; though I really had no choice in the matter.
“Bill, if you asked the Pope if one can know God’s will, his answer would be to note that God’s will is one of the mysteries of faith.”
To expand on that thought, I can make a few declarations:
First, it is in Romans 12:2, where I can find the sanction of my pilgrimage:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
God’s will is not a puzzle, or a Rubik’s cube, by which one can know God’s will through the careful and patient process of examination, redaction, and completion of the necessary steps to transform chaos into order, or lost into saved. What is hidden by God shall always remain hidden from the prying mind of mankind. But it is true that the continual examination, redaction, and completion of one’s purpose and work will renew one’s mind to the effort of discerning God’s will in the minutia of man’s full life; those day-to-day physical realities of engagement with God’s creation and with the community or gathering, the ekklesia, of man.
Second, it is here, in the routine, that man comes to grips with, and the practice of, God’s will. As a pilgrim, the daily repetition of those actions that constitute the greatest adherence to God’s precepts of creation – namely the performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort – builds habit of those virtues or those actions that please God. As such, God’s will is fulfilled. For the pilgrim, it simply translates into fewer blisters and other medical problems, greater durability of equipment, clothing, and boots, and more sustainability of resources like water and food. All of this, in turn, leads to a better disposition and animation of purpose unto those the pilgrim encounters. This is effective evangelization, or teaching of Christ’s ministry. It may sound shallow to the prideful, but it is fulfilling for the humble.
Third, God imbues within a man or a woman those gift’s that would enable him or her to perform their calling, and it is His call that is His will. I leave it to Peter to sum it up:
1 Peter 4:10-11
“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”
Fourth, do not look for God’s sovereign, providential action as your guide in life and the understanding of His will on your life. By its very nature it is extraordinary, and as such it is only God’s to dispense and not man’s to call. To do so is an act of unbelief, and not an act of faith. And besides, you could seek His will for a lifetime, and in so doing, never rest content in the work God has so providentially done through your life.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I thought I’d add this audio file. There were definitely times, in some soft wheat field, some moistened glen, or some cool and dark forest that I felt God’s presence so close; a blessing that I will carry with me always.
God Bless and Buen Camino – Reese