St. Joseph Catholic Church
Saint Junipero Serra’s Camino is an ideal way of pilgrimage. Like the ancient pilgrimage routes—the path of Jesus through Galilee to Jerusalem, the way of the early martyrs in Rome, and the Camino of Santiago de Compostela—it challenges the traveler to make a transforming journey, an internal journey that parallels the external trip. In traveling this road, pilgrims encounter holy places, communities of faith, occasions for meditative prayer, and prospects for inner healing—opportunities to align their lives more closely with the Gospel in order to become missionary disciples of Jesus.
The Lord moves within our hearts, conforming them to the Sacred Heart of his Son and building a beautiful reciprocity between the giving of ourselves and the giving of himself. Jesus said we will always know what to say concerning him, and that comes from our hearts resting in his. The infusion of knowledge happens so gradually, so subtly, that we are almost completely unaware. We only know that we must spend time with him, that we must listen attentively to the Scriptures, and that we must participate in the life of the community he has formed into his body. We must, because we know that if we do not, we will die.
Surely the Spirit of God was working within the indigenous people of California before the Gospel was proclaimed to them. God was revealing himself through the beauty and splendor of creation: “Ever since the creation of the world, his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Romans 1:20). For this reason, people everywhere are attracted to the Gospel, God’s saving plan for the world, when they hear it proclaimed. God has created a template within the human spirit for the seeds of the Gospel to grow.
So preoccupied had I been with Assisi that I couldn’t see beyond it to the goal of everything, that other threshold, that border where earth and heaven meet. The mountain is the symbol of that apogee in the soul where we meet God. This is not to denigrate or dismiss what is below, but to lift it up and give thanks to God for all that God has made; to bless it and praise God and see that everything is good because it comes from God and ultimately leads us beyond itself to the God who made it and redeems it. What is below makes the mountain. It does not rest on air, on spirit, but on matter, which is the mountain’s way to the heights of union with God. The mountain affirms incarnation, the entering of God into all that God has made.
Prayer is almost as much a mystery as God. Prayer always seems to be more than the words we use to describe it or the ways in which we understand it. Prayer is as old as the human family, stretching all the way back to the fall of Adam and Eve. Prior to disobeying God, our first parents lived in friendship with him. The intimacy they shared precluded the need for prayer. Their sin, however, produced a chasm between themselves and God. Because God created them to share his life, the desire for him not only remained, it also intensified. St. Augustine describes this as a restlessness within the human heart that can only be satisfied by resting in God. We can say, therefore, with a fair degree of certainty that prayer is the action that enables communication between that which is human and that which is divine.
O God, who gave Saint Anthony of Padua a love for the sacred Scriptures and the gift of teaching them, give us a love for your holy word and a deep desire to encounter you. Through his intercession, help us to find what we have lost and especially to remain in possession of the truest good, peace of spirit and the grace of salvation. Show us, through your saint, what it means to live in Jesus Christ, who humbled and emptied himself for our sakes and the sake of the whole world. Amen.
One of the most grave and disturbing things I have encountered as a priest is the number of people that do not believe God loves them. Far too many people think that they must first prove their love to God before God will extend himself to them. Every time I meet people shocked by the truth that God loves them, it breaks my priestly heart. How could they not know that God loves us in his Son, even while we were yet (and are still) sinners?