Last week I was standing in church and remembered something from my early twenties. It was something I would do when I was a student in seminary: I would walk. I would walk by myself – for a half-hour, sometimes longer – along familiar paths on the seminary grounds. I would walk without the intention of getting to a precise somewhere else. I would walk not because I had been instructed to but because I had regularly seen others, even men older than I in religious life, walk that slow, solitary way.
There was no easy solace in these walks, however, as relaxing as the pace might seem. With each venture out I would be left more and more with myself as I went first this path and then that. Sometimes I took a route between rows of tall pines at the edge of the seminary property; my shoes would kick through the brown needles. My mood at the beginning of a walk had the chance of getting clearer and clearer as I moved on, and that clarity might not automatically be something restful or easy.
Rock bottom, though, I was wagering that somehow with each venture out I might get closer to who I was. It might not be so hard to be with my precise questions and needs and issues and history. In a religious setting, I was testing out the proposition that a someone out there might already understand those questions and needs and history.
It was an odd wisdom that I might get closer to that someone out there as I got closer to the someone inside.
It was an odd experience to find at walk’s end that I wanted someone to ask me about that someone inside.
Sometimes in my walks I would pass one of the places on the seminary grounds where a statue had been raised decades earlier. It might be a statue of Jesus or a statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus. Sometimes from atop a pedestal the statue of a missionary saint would cast its eyes down at whoever had slowed his pace there and looked up.
It would make sense to think of a walk among such statues as a Catholic thing. However, that was not the kind of Catholic walk I was remembering last weekend.
I was remembering my explorer’s heart that had wanted to go places as daunting as they were familiar. And I was remembering wanting another explorer to go with me.