Ten years ago today, on the night of the 26th of March 2005, I was baptized into the Church at the great Vigil of Easter. I used to think that it was a rare thing that one could point to a specific day, a specific moment, and say with certainty, “that’s it; that’s when everything changed”.
As it turns out, that’s not really true. Our whole life is filled with those moments.
Ten years ago this morning, my thoughts were of silence and community. Interestingly, I used the metaphor of a road, of the Way.
They are, each of them, on their own road, their own interior road. In a sense, it’s the same road. There is only one road, after all, but each traveller is veiled from the other by their own silence.
How can one describe the road? I’ve tried. You can’t. The road that can be described is not the eternal road.
That God, He’s a tricky one.
Like Pilate, we are each of us looking for Truth. God is veiled from us, but the veil, I think, is the one we put over our own eyes.
It turns out that God is even trickier than I thought. Who could have guessed, reading those words, that eight years later I would walk the Camino de Santiago – the Way of Saint James – and that it would be one of the most profound events of my life?
One of the pilgrim sayings current on the Camino is that “everybody is walking their own Camino”. The sense of it is similar to what I wrote back before my Baptism. Everybody’s heading for the same place, but their motivations and experiences are theirs alone.
The genius of the Camino is that it’s a very intense physical, mental, and spiritual journey that becomes an obvious metaphor for one’s pilgrimage on earth. You might come as a pilgrim, but you might just as easily come as a hiker, a tourist, a vagabond. By whatever interior Way we walk, we all become pilgrims in the end.
Here is what I wrote in my journal the day I arrived in Santiago:
Everybody walks the Way for different reasons. I walked with Christians, with Atheists, with those seeking wisdom or answers or direction, and with those just out for a nice long hike.
At different points of the Way, I suppose everybody finds some answers, but these inevitably lead to more questions. At least for me.
I had prayer intentions for the pilgrimage, but mostly I was there seeking a certain spiritual clarity that typically eludes me in the bustle and busyness of the modern working world.
By the time we got to the end, I had learned quite a bit, and I’m still unpacking the experience. I remember sitting in the crypt, kneeling in front of the tomb of Saint James the Apostle and asking, “now what?”
The pilgrimage was over, the Way was walked. What now? I had finished the Way, and I was already missing it.
Apparently, God decided that He wasn’t going to be subtle this time.
We went to the Pilgrims’ Mass at the Cathedral. This is the feast of two more Apostles, Saints Philip and James the Less. The Gospel reading for this Mass is from the fourteenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. It begins:
Jesus said to Thomas, I am the way and the truth and the life.
Sure, you say, “that’s just a coincidence, the reading mentioning ‘Thomas’ and ‘Way’ on the day you just happen to end your pilgrimage, Thom”.
I may be a little thick, but I know the Voice of God when I hear it. Usually.
The Way isn’t done – the Way continues forever. The Way isn’t just a walk, the Way is Christ.
Now that I’ve finished the Way to Santiago, my call is to continue walking with Christ, the Way and the Truth and the Life.
We married on 25 January 2008, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Another moment when everything changed, celebrated on a day when everything changed.
I certainly could not have done this without her. Together we discovered the depth and wonders of the Catholic faith and the Catholic life. We came to it with fresh eyes.
My experience was a long wandering road from disbelief through various religious traditions.
Her experience was of growing up in the faith and leaving it for Orthodox Judaism, of meandering from there until at last she and I were drawn by the Blessed Virgin – on the Feast of her Assumption – into our neighbourhood parish church of Saint Patrick.
Together, we became Benedictine Oblates. More moments that changed everything.
Together we built a life and a home we call Pistachio House. At one time or another, each of our four children – Tristan and Victoria, Sam and Michaela – have come to live there for a while. Currently, it’s also home to our nephew Jason.
Together Francine and I walked the Camino – and God willing we will walk it again – but even in the quiet of the ordinary, everyday parts of our lives, we have done our best to share our Benedictine charisms of hospitality, of prayer and work, with each other and with all those we meet.
Through these ten years, our family has experienced sorrow to be sure, but also joy in an abundance that continues to amaze me.
I know it shouldn’t, but it continually surprises me.
In this past decade, Francine and I have served our parish and the people of God as best we could.
In the Church my love of God has led me to a great love of the liturgy – to the point where I am serving as an Altar Server trainer and MC for my parish – and of a devotion to the Divine Mercy and to the Divine Office.
These forms of prayer, together with my lectio, are the things that spiritually nourish me on a daily basis.
And who would have thought that in less than seven years I would go from attending RCIA to teaching it?
For that matter, who could possibly guess that less than two weeks after my baptism I would be kneeling in the rain at the funeral of a saint?
I am so grateful. I am so absurdly grateful to God for the life He has seen fit to give me, for my faith, for my wife, for my family, for my friends, for our parish and our pastor, in prosperity and in poverty both.
I don’t know what surprises He has in store for me for the next ten years, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: when He asks, the answer is yes.
What, dearest brethren, can be sweeter to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us? See, in His loving kindness, the Lord showeth us the way of life. Therefore, having our loins girt with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk His ways under the guidance of the Gospel, that we may be found worthy of seeing Him who hath called us to His kingdom.
(Rule of Saint Benedict, Prologue)