An occasion of mild embarrassment and moderate frustration turned into a little reminder from Our Lord.
I recently hiked across a good-sized stretch of Switzerland with a close friend. The plan was to hike across the whole of it, but we got turned back by snow. At one pass, the snow was too deep. At another, the snowy slope too treacherous. In the end, we headed home with 175 km (about 110 miles) under our belts (of 380 km total).
Truth be told, I was disappointed not to finish the projected itinerary. It was to be a grand way of saying goodbye to the beautiful country that had been home for the past three years. Instead, it was an occasion of mild embarrassment and moderate frustration. I suppose I could just chalk it up to mere misadventure, but for the fact that it wasn’t.
A brief encounter at the beginning of the trip brought this into relief. On the first day of the hike, my friend and I were walking through the town of Sargans on our way up to the village of Weisstannen. We stopped first at the parish church to make our holy hour before ducking into the Capuchin convent for a short visit. As we were leaving the convent and passing out of the town, we were stopped short by the sound of bells – not big church bells, little hand bells.
We looked up the street and beheld a Eucharistic procession approaching us in solemn state – father with the monstrance under the canopy ranged about by first communicants, parish families, and a full choir. We paused, removed our hats, knelt as they passed by, and then moved on.
As the procession returned to the parish church of the adjacent town, I remarked to my friend that we had just witnessed something special. The chances of our path crossing with the procession were so small given our route and the decline of Catholic piety in Switzerland. And yet, as we set out, the Lord saw fit to give us a little reminder.
For while our hike was goal-oriented — a goal ultimately left unattained — the Blessed Sacrament gave us a perspective on the true end that lies ever in store. Whether we make the appreciable progress for which we set out, Christ comes always in search on a path bound to intersect our own. In the end, our life’s hike, with its summits and valleys, will prove fruitful if we can but pause, remove our hats, kneel as he passes by, and then move on.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.