“…the road that we seek is often the road we have already found.”
– Fr. James Martin, SJ, My Life with the Saints
I sometimes find that I need to get away, but I still want some familiarity. It’s less running away and more running to. Or strolling. It’s not always hurrying along, but slowing, not sloth-like but cautious optimism, observant, and taking it all in.
In those familiar places, taking it all in comes in spurts, a little at a time. At first, we see the big things, the vibrant colors, the loud sounds, the people’s clothes, and then each time after, we pick up something new. The running water of a stream, the steepness of a hill, the beep of the French fry fryer, the cheek’s freckles, the light that won’t stop flickering.
For some, familiarity breeds contempt; for others, comfort.
We have two nearby shrines – four saints that I’ve tried to visit each year. I’ve heard talk that it may be sold. That would make me sad.
While I was in Ireland, the chapel was unfamiliar but the shrines, while different in saint and location was familiar enough. I lie a candle fort the first time in prayer.
In Wales (and Ireland) I gathered my own holy water. The feel of the water was familiar as was the air I breathed and yet, still new.
My three favorite eateries are familiar even when I travel away from my regular joints.
Our habits can make the places familiar and they are different, changed enough to make the experience e, the visit, the meditation something new.
A breeze in a community park can feel the same as at a shrine or at St. Patrick’s Park in Dublin.
The feeling conjured by the 9/11 memorial in Belfast can be just as moving as others away from New York City.
Signing a condolence book as I did as an American in Belfast for Barcelona joined me with the prayers of others across the world and across City Hall.
When I’m not seeking I often feel that I should have just stayed home, made a pot of tea, lit a candle and sat in my office that I modeled so carefully. Easy chair and ottoman, tea mug, and flickering candle guiding the reading or the writing or the praying.
The candle doesn’t light the darkness, but guides the holy spirit to where it is needed, requested, its purpose unknown until it arrives.
Visit a few of your familiar places: the shopping mall, the library, your church in the off hours, a porch chair on a quiet morning, the sun glimmering through bare branches or glowing through full green ones.
Where is that road that you seek?
Where does it lead?
Is it rough or easy terrain?
Is it new yet familiar? Or so new it sets your heart pounding, your breath quickening?
Have you found what you’ve been looking for?
Are you still continuing to look?