Maps and Landmarks
A year or two ago, just after Christmas, my husband (who's never been there before) decided take our four sons to visit a friend in Peterborough. The weather forecast wasn't great, but they hadn't seen Father Bob for months, so off they went.
Eleven years old at the time, our Matthew volunteered to navigate. Now, he's been fascinated by maps ever since he grasped their concept, that the apparently arbitrary symbols on a map correspond to real physical features of the countryside. Matthew eagerly tracked their progress, matching road numbers and symbols to the highways they traveled, town names on the map to roadside signs announcing 'Almonte,''Carleton Place', 'Perth', and warning his Dad in plenty of time of important crossroads.
On their way home, late in the evening, they drove into an icestorm. (Not the Great Icestorm of 1998, but its prophet, the icestorm of 1997.) Visibility was minimal. Little could be seen outside the range of the headlights, and these were gradually dimmed by the accumulation of ice.
The map, and Matthew's ability to read it, become even more important. Feeling very responsible, Matthew hunched over the map with a small flashlight as his father struggled with the car in the wind and ice. Trusting the representation on the map, he called out roadsigns, intersections and distances. Once, they missed a turn because snow had obscured the sign, but watching the map, Matthew quickly spotted their error and got them back on their route.
They arrived triumphantly home, hours late, but safe and sound.
This winter adventure, in a small way, resembles the lifelong adventure of our faith journey. We have a destination, we were created by our Heavenly Father to join Him in Eternity. We know we can get there somehow, it has been promised to us through the Resurrection. But there are millions of routes to choose, and thousands of distractions along the way. Without clear directions we can quickly become lost, and spend days, months and sometimes even years trying to find our way again. We need a map.
The teachings and Traditions of the Catholic Church are the map to guide us on our faith journey. The liturgies, devotions, readings, sacraments and sacramentals show us the way. Like the symbols on a road map, they may seem abstract or even irrelevant at times, but Mary and all the saints who have gone before us testify they are true representations of True Reality, and can be trusted to lead us correctly.
Still, there are many times in our life when a crisis, a temptation, or a persistent fault blurs our vision. We miss our turn and head off into unknown, stormy territory. Then we must search for the landmarks and signs that guide us in our faith journey, and back track to a familiar crossroad.
The Lenten season is one of those crossroads, a place where we can rest for a time and regain our direction before we set out again on our trek towards Home. Fasting, abstinence, sacrifice and almsgiving remind us not to place too much reliance on the things of this world. Prayer and penance remind us of our destination and the route. The readings and Gospels remind us of the weaknesses of human nature and the enduring Love of God.
With time and faithful practice, the liturgies and seasons of the Church become as familiar and trusted as a printed road map. A family that follows this map, and brings its children up to have faith and experience in using the map of the traditions of the Church, will never be truly lost. This issue of Domestic-Church.Com will point out some of the landmarks, and some of the special symbols on the map. We will tell stories of people and families on their journeys towards Home, and offer some ways to practice 'map-following' in your own domestic churches.
Matthew may become lost in a icestorm again. With a map he'll find his way home. I'll welcome him in and serve hot chocolate. How much happier I will be, if with the experience of a practicing faithful life, he follows the faith map of the Church and makes his way to Heaven! Peace, Catherine.