May 30, 2008

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Plan to take a spiritual journey this summer

Sean GallagherWell, here we are again. With Memorial Day just behind us, the summer travel season has begun.

Or has it? With gas prices hovering close to $4 per gallon, and the economy as a whole in the doldrums, this is a legitimate question to ask.

Whether or not these or other factors are pinching your pocketbooks enough to make summer vacations a little more difficult this year, there is nothing stopping you from traveling far and wide in your heart.

It is a common family custom around Memorial Day to honor deceased friends and loved ones by placing flowers or other tokens of remembrance at their graves.

Such a custom, however, should spur us spiritually throughout the year to travel in our hearts and minds back to those special places and times where these people helped to make us who we are today.

They might include a grandparent who showed us love—no matter what. It could be a mother or a father who taught us so many of life’s important lessons. An uncle or aunt might be on our minds when we recall how they taught us to laugh in the face of life’s little daily annoyances. An important teacher or neighbor may have shown us in quiet ways how good principles should always be the guiding light of our life.

For Catholic families, keeping alive the memory and influence of such people is not just a nice thing to do: It is nothing less than an embodiment of our belief in the communion of the saints.

We believe the borders of the Church that Christ founded do not end on this side of heaven. No, they extend further to those faithful souls being purified in purgatory, and to those blessed ones now basking in the glory of heaven itself.

As was noted earlier, we can make physical pilgrimages to the resting place of these people. But at all times, we should also keep alive in our hearts those memories of the important times we spent with them.

There also should be a real purpose to such pilgrimages of the heart. They aren’t just sentimental journeys. To truly honor these friends and loved ones, we should go back to them in our memories so that their influence on our lives can be felt more and more today and into the future.

And, as Catholics, we should ask them to pray for us so that their influence will remain firmly planted in our souls.

This is a prayer that I feel confident God would ultimately answer because I believe that he placed these people in our lives as channels of his grace.

Through their grace-inspired good examples, God has taught us how to follow his will, which is the true way to happiness in our lives. And through the love these special people showed us, God draws us closer to himself who is love without end.

Perhaps the prayers of these deceased loved ones will also strengthen us as we strive to become channels of God’s grace for the young people around us.

When we do this, we will set out with them on another spiritual journey that will only come to an end in the fullness of God’s kingdom in heaven.

At some point, the young people that God has called us to guide on this pilgrimage may have to go on without us since, in death, we will end our own journey and start, God willing, to help them as heavenly intercessors.

What a great journey this will be, and one where we don’t have to worry about gas prices because God’s grace—the fuel for this trip of a lifetime—is there for the taking, free of charge. †

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