August 31, 2018

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Journey together as a family of faith in the pilgrimage of life

Sean GallagherMy father, two of my sons, Raphael and Victor, and I recently took a road trip to Arizona and back. We drove more than 4,000 miles in one week.

As challenging as driving to Arizona and back was at times, it was filled with blessings. It was amazing to experience the vastness that is America by driving across it.

We went from the lush green and largely flat tilled farmland of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri to the cattle country of Oklahoma and Texas.

As we went through the western part of the Texas panhandle, the land became dry, rocky and slightly hilly. That only increased as we drove through New Mexico and Arizona.

Seeing massive rock formations and canyons in Arizona was, of course, a world away from Indiana. Indeed, some parts of Petrified Forest National Park made us feel like we were on another planet. And there is naturally nothing in massiveness in our beloved Hoosier state to even begin to compare with the Grand Canyon.

As impressive as the sites in Arizona were that we visited, I experienced pleasure on the last day of our trip when we crossed the Mississippi River into western Illinois, and huge green corn and soybean fields in the dusky light of early evening were laid out before us.

I appreciated the abundant life that burst out all around us in contrast to the dry deserts, hills and mountains of New Mexico and Arizona. They have their life, too, but it’s often more hidden.

Our souls have a similar vast and diverse geography. Whether we realize its immensity or not in our daily lives, we are always pilgrims in it, seeking our way to what Shakespeare called the “undiscovered country,” the infinite spiritual landscape of eternity which we will enter when we die.

We take this pilgrimage of our lives together as families, like we three generations of Gallaghers as we made our way across the wide plains, deserts and mountains of America.

The Holy Spirit guides all generations of a family on this journey toward heaven, sometimes speaking through the wisdom of elders, at other times enlightening us through the new perspectives of the young.

And how much more rich is our journey when taking it together, sharing the joys and trials of each stage of our pilgrimage than if we traveled alone?

We rejoice together in the verdant plains in our souls when we seem to be immersed in God’s infinite life. And we can be there to support each other when God’s life seems far away in the deserts of our souls, and we’re weary in our journey of faith.

What is true for families like my own in our pilgrimage through the geography of our souls is true also for our broader family of faith, the Church, which has its own vast spiritual geography.

With all the problems the people of God are facing, we may seem to be in a lifeless desert. Just taking one more step in our pilgrimage can be a trial.

But God hasn’t abandoned us, even if he seems to be far away in this rugged spiritual terrain. His life-giving grace is ever-present in the sacraments which we, as a family of faith, celebrate together.

The Eucharist is the food for the journey that God has given us to reach his home. Cling to it, then, and God will lead us to eternal life. †

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