Help me to journey
Beyond the familiar
And into the unknown.
Give me the faith
To leave old ways
And break fresh
Ground with You…
(The first stanza of the Prayer of St. Brendan of Clonfert, “the Navigator”
Irish patron of sailors, written in the 6th Century)
Last Sunday, my young-adult granddaughter called to say, “Happy Easter, Granny!” She was on her way to church with a friend—another young woman—who was attending church for the first time ever. I told my granddaughter I would pray for her friend, which I’ve been doing every since early Easter morning.
Even though I wouldn’t recognize this young woman for whom I’m praying, I know God knows her, and I believe it is only the Spirit of God who can reveal the message of the Resurrection to her spirit.
Later in the day, I visited with my mother, a woman in her 90’s, who for as long as I’ve known her, has embraced the message of Easter. Mom’s influence was the first and undoubtedly one of the most powerful in my faith journey.
Mom is struggling right now with difficult issues unique to the elderly. They take a toll physically, emotionally and even spiritually. I try to help how I can but admit frequent feelings of helplessness.
Even though I struggle knowing how to best pray for my mother, I know God knows her, hasn’t abandoned her, and I believe the Spirit of God will guide and bring hope to my aging mother’s spirit.
The last event on a busy Easter Sunday was celebrating with our daughter’s family. Our toddler grandson was eager to show me the stained-glass window craft he’d made in Sunday School. But, truly, Reeve’s greatest excitement centered around candy and coins contained in plastic Easter eggs.
Even though the message seems obscure to my 2-year-old grandson, I believe God knows this little red-haired guy and has heard every prayer sent heavenward on his behalf. It is only the Spirit of God, who can awaken Reeve’s spirit into an authentic relationship with the Resurrected Lord.
The people whose lives intersect ours on many different levels are important, including family, friends, and for me, people I met on my recent educational pilgrimage to Spain.
Fellow “pilgrims” and new friends with Fr. Javier (center) who served us communion in the ancient cave where St. Ignatius’ spirit encountered God’s Spirit in life-altering ways.
Relationships included brief but meaningful one-day exchanges with four different tour guides who shared well their knowledge of history, culture, and love for their homeland.
I’ll never forget the soft-spoken Jesuit priest who guided our talkative group of Protestant pilgrims through four days of teaching on contemplative (silent/listening) prayer. Fr. Javier Melloni’s deep religious devotion and keen intellect were evident, but what impressed me most about Javier was his ability to be fully present whether in prayer or while visiting one-on-one. I was reminded through his example how “not present” I so often am—whether communicating with God or with one of God’s creations.
My most significant interactions were with the eleven “pilgrims” with whom I shared this experience. There was one lone male, the gracious husband of our leader, Dr. Debbie Gill. Four of us were married; one was recently widowed; and one teenager, traveled with her mom. Five were never-married, well-educated (three with doctoral degrees), mature, confident and committed women. Two were from New York City; two from Washington, D.C.; four from Missouri; one from Arkansas, and of course, yours truly, the “granny” from North Idaho!
Even though we all held similar fundamental beliefs, our individual stories, personalities, life events, and journeys of faith created prismatic perspectives through which we each embraced the unique pilgrimage experience. Like the 6th Century Irish missionary, Brendan, each of us had beforehand decided to “journey beyond the familiar,” to travel beyond “old ways” and to “break fresh ground” with the God we love and serve.
The result? The same Divine Spirit met with each of our human spirits in distinctive ways. In our always-changing worlds confidence in the never-changing Spirit of God seems cause for great comfort and joy.
Blessings on your journey beyond the familiar to break fresh ground…