Friday, December 3, 2010
Travelers Along The Way
I recently completed the book Travelers Along The Way --- The Men and Women Who Shaped my Life, by Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I’ve read many, many books in my life, from fun mindless novels to deep philosophical or theological tomes. I’ve reviewed none of them here, although I could recommend many. This book though, this book is one worth thinking about, especially now during Advent.
Fr. Groeschel writes twenty-eight short chapters about those who, I would put it, shaped his thinking. I was surprised at some of the names and stories; I knew of many of them. He wrote of saints or saints-to-be: Solanus Casey, Mother Teresa, Cardinal Terrence Cook, Mother Angelica, John Hardon, and Cardinal John O’Connor. He knew these people, some very closely. How I wish these could have been influences in my life, but perhaps they are to some degree, if I let them.
He wrote of very well known people: Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward, Judge William P. Clark, Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, Fr. Michael Scanlon, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, and Cardinal Avery Dulles, towers of knowledge and faith. And yet he wrote of smaller, less well known people too. I recognized the name Karen Killilea, and the book I remembered written about her titled: Karen. The book is the story of a girl born three months premature, with cerebral palsy; it was an inspirational story which I read a number of times in my youth. I wished I could have known her. Karen was Fr. Groeschel’s receptionist for thirty-five years; reading his comments about her was like reading about an old friend.
And Fr. Groeschel also wrote about people who may only have mattered to him. There was Mr. Graff, and Gary, and the elephant man, and the altar boy, And then there was Sr. Mary Joseph. You may remember Sr. Mary’s name before she entered the cloistered life at Carmel. She was called Ann Miller, the well-known West-coast socialite. Widowed with grown children, Ann elected to leave all the glitter and fame behind for religious life. Her friends threw her a gala sixty-first birthday party at a large hotel in San Francisco; Fr. Groeschel notes she danced until 2AM. And then at 6AM, Fr. Groeschel celebrated a mass for her, and accompanied her to Chicago to Carmel. She is there still.
I have had many people influence my life, some perhaps saints to be, perhaps even Fr. Groeschel. Others were virtual nobodies, people whose names even I forgot. But I remember them, and things they did which I cannot forget. Some of them are you, whether you are aware of it or not. That’s the thing, Dunne stated a profoundly true thing when he said that: “No Man is an Island.” Even Physics, with its String Theory, now believes this to be true. Every person we meet influences us, and we influence every person we meet. I remembered some negative stories about some of the people Fr. Groeschel cites in his book, but he only remembers good things about them. I think that is very important, to seek out and remember the good things. Everyone has some bad things about him, but we don’t have to focus on those things. We can choose to remember the good.
Fr. Groeschel summarizes the reasons for his recollections at the close of his book:
As Christ calls to them, He calls to every human soul. Despite this we see in our sad world many people who seem to have lost all sense of God, who seem far away from any sign of the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Some seem to show very little of even the natural virtues of prudence, justice, courage, and temperance or even the subdivisions of these virtues, like kindness, patience, and generosity. Yet Christ still calls to them. Perhaps He calls in a special way to you. Perhaps He calls you to become a fellow traveler for such a person, a traveler through whom His call will become audible for the first time.
Life can be daunting and difficult, and it takes effort and sensitivity to make our journey in the company of others. We must never forget for even a moment, however, that this journey has a purpose: It is the journey to holiness, the journey to God. If you thoroughly reflect on your fellow travelers, you will see that often they make the road of life easier, that they illuminate your path, that they bring joy to you during times of sadness, that from time to time their lives make audible the call of the Eternal Traveler, the call of Christ.
Part of the reason for writing this book was to suggest, dear reader, that you spend some time examining your own journey and recalling the fellow travelers you have encountered along the road of life. I believe it can be very profitable to meditate on how their presence has changed you and, perhaps, brought you a little closer to God. If you do this, I am sure you will discover that they have taught you much. You can also be sure that you have taught others a great deal along the way, whether you realize it or not.
As you consider your fellow travelers carefully, perhaps you will begin to see something special in one or two of them. Perhaps you will find a hidden saint among them. There are many quiet saints; only a few have been chosen by God for fame, but many walk the road of life in the company of the Eternal Traveler, and they walk in our company as well.
I’m happy to have you along for my journey, my friends. May you be saints, for all those around you whom you influence through your presence. You may be the very saint they need.