Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Taking Walks

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.

I felt Catholic when I walked those hours or half-hours. There were times during the seminary day when I was free to write letters in my room or study in the library or reflect in the chapel. It was made clear to us that the grounds were always available for our exploration and enjoyment.

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.

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