by Fr. Garry Richmeier, C.PP.S.
A wise teacher was making a pilgrimage to a holy city, accompanied by one of his students, a journey of many days. They came upon a crossroads where they saw a traveler obviously trying to decide which way to go. After inquiring, they learned he was also on his way to the holy city but did not know which path to take. The teacher told him the path to the right led to the holy city, and the man was welcome to join him and his student on the journey. But the man said, “You may be robbers leading me to a desolate place where you will steal what I have and leave me for dead. I will take the path to the left.” The teacher said, “Then we will accompany you so that you reach your destination safely.” So they set out together. It wasn’t long before the student pulled the teacher aside and said, “Teacher, we are getting farther away from the holy city. At this rate we will never get there.” The teacher said, “There are some things more important than reaching one’s intended destination.” As the three walked along they began to share stories of their background, their families, and their home villages. Eventually the trio began discussing why it was important to each to make this pilgrimage, and what role it played in their faith life. They discovered they were very similar in their intent and desire to grow in holiness. The traveler suddenly stopped and said, “Let us turn back. Because of our journey together I now realize the truth of the directions you gave me at the crossroads.” The three turned around and continued their pilgrimage to the holy city.
Our Church is very good at giving directions as to how to live a holy life. Especially with the recent emphasis on apologetics as a teaching tool, the Church clearly states what people should and should not do to be faithful. If simply giving directions was sufficient, everyone would follow and arrive safely at the destination. But a significant number of people have difficulty trusting the directions given are for their welfare and not for some other purpose, e.g., for cementing the hierarchy’s authority, control, and continued existence as is. That is why many simply ignore Church teachings that do not make sense to them or are difficult to follow, and go their own way. The Church today seems satisfied with walking without them.
As a Precious Blood community, we know the value of walking with others. We have made a commitment to live with, deal with, put up with, come to consensus with, celebrate with, and walk with each other no matter what. Each one of us can tell stories of when keeping that commitment was difficult and we thought life would be easier without “those others.” But we have chosen to continue to walk with each other, each in his or her own unique way, and that enables us to better trust each other’s advice, criticism, compliments, care, and directions.
“Walking with” is probably the greatest gift we as the Precious Blood community can offer the Church (the people of God) right now. The institutional Church is providing people with plenty of directions, so that leaves us free to simply walk with people.
Our traditional charisms come under the heading of walking with people. Ministering to the marginalized describes how we reverently walk with people when others have abandoned and ostracized them. Our ministry of reconciliation is a way of standing with people in brokenness and walking with them through the difficult journey of healing. Preaching the Word for the renewal of the Church, when done well, is walking with people in their journey of coming to understand God’s Word and God’s Love, even when their understanding is different than ours.
It all boils down to a crucial question of faith: do we trust that walking with each other in love with no other goal in mind will get us where we need to go? Or, like the student in the story above, do we think doing something else will work better?
The concept of “walking with” really is the point. If we walk with each other with respect, care, and love, we don’t have to worry about the destination. We have already arrived.
by Fr. Garry Richmeier, C.PP.S.