On Second Thought, or Something Bigger – A Tale of Two Titles
I am a cautious person by nature. I don’t just think about the next move – I prefer to think two, three or four moves ahead. That’s why my wife refuses to play checkers with me – “You think too much”, she says. In some aspects of life that trait has served me quite well. Sometimes though when there is too much uncertainty in life, as with checkers, I just refused to move. I have had many inspirational thoughts that I have pondered into nothingness. Second thoughts can lead to doubt; second thoughts can be fatal to dreams.
I recognize that God continues to chip away at is this very aspect of my spiritual life. God wants me to abandon myself to him. He has shown me this. He has told me this. He wants me to give up what I perceive, foolishly most of the time, as control over my life. I must admit that it scares me at times; it confuses me at times; and it has even made me angry at times. I’d block it from my mind completely if I didn’t also admit that it excites me much of the time.
One of the methods that I have found works for me when God wants to take me deeper than I want to go is public commitment. When I keep inspirations of faith within my heart time can bury that secret forever. But those times that I have spoken my inspirations out loud - like with my marriage vows, and like with my promises at ordination, are like taking the first step of the journey. The first step is always the hardest.
When they announced that the annual Walk to Mary was canceled this year, I was inspired to walk it as a solo pilgrimage. But I began to have second thoughts. I know from the five previous times I made the Walk that despite training and good hiking shoes that my feet are prone to blisters. I know I am going to be stiff and sore for several days. The initial allure of the idea was wearing thin.
I meet with a small group of men every week. In the Cursillo Movement we call it a 4th Day Reunion group. We discuss where we encountered Christ in the past week, what we are doing to deepen our study of the Catholic faith, and what apostolic action we took or plan to take. We continue to meet weekly via video conference even in this time of ‘safer at home’.
Everyone in my group had been preparing for a Diocesan-wide consecration to St. Joseph to be held on May 1st. I hadn’t participated in the consecration because of some timing conflicts so I had felt a little left out these past weeks as they had been discussing the spiritual fruits they were already receiving in the preparation. During the call the Holy Spirit nudged me and before I had time for a second thought I told them that I had been thinking about doing the Walk to Mary on my own, but since I wanted to support them all spiritually I promised them that I would walk on May 1st, and that I would walk the route in reverse for them – from the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion to the Shrine of St. Joseph on the campus at St. Norbert College. There. I said it out loud. Commitment. First step taken. Second thoughts overcome.
On May 1st Michelle drove me out to Champion early in the morning. I had mentioned my plan to Becky VanKauwenberg on the Quad Parish Staff and she surprised me by meeting me at the Shrine. She said if I would send some pictures throughout the day that she would post them on the parish Facebook page. People could join the pilgrimage virtually.
Every time I stopped to take and text her a photo, Becky shared prayer requests that people had posted. All of a sudden, a planned solo walk intended to support my small men’s group began lifting others up in prayer. When I stopped for my first rest I had to scroll down through the growing posts and prayers.
Michelle walked out to meet me when I was about a mile away from SNC and she joined me for end of the walk. It really helped to have her walk along with me. Shortly after I sent Becky a picture of the statue of St. Joseph at the end of my pilgrimage, she sent me a screenshot of all of the supportive comments and prayers of nearly 500 people who had participated virtually on the pilgrimage. Amazing.
This is how God works. He can take our doubts, our hesitation, our uncertainty, even our unwillingness and lead us through all of that into something much bigger than ourselves, something much more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.
On the drive home I could feel rigor mortis setting in. Overworked muscles were tightening up and stiffening up. I could feel my swelled feet aching. I told Shelly that I decided this would be the last time I did the Shrine-to-Shrine walk. The next day, Saturday morning, I had my video call with my 4th Day group. I had a chance to tell them about my experience. One of the guys said that next year he’d really like to walk with me. Whoa! - I wanted to stop him right there. In my mind I already knew that there wasn’t going to be a walk for me next year. But on second thought . . .
His PeaceDeacon Dan