Emmitsburg Council of Churches

I used to think walking was a waste of time

Father John J. Lombardi

I’d rather run and get some endorphins going and accomplish something mountain-man like. Then I was assigned to Hancock-Little Orleans and also began the process of training for a walking-pilgrimage in Spain. We pilgrims were to walk about ten miles a day to Santiago, northern Spain, and so I began getting ready. Here in western Maryland our towns have a wonderful Main St. (I was stunned when cars stopped for me as I approached a cross walk) and bucolic hills and creeks to meander around. So, I’ve been walking more: and, usually attired in my Roman collar it’s a good advertising for the Catholic Church and God and priesthood! Besides, Jesus Christ walked everywhere He went.

While walking around a mountain lake recently, I came up with the following aspiration-prayer below. I hope it will help you Walk in the Spirit, Breathing in me; We blend together: Harmony

Here’s some commentary-gloss on that. The important thing is not to over analyze this aspiration but rather to practice it within while walking and get into a holy rhythm of synergy with the Spirit-God.

  • Walk in the Spirit: we are to travel thru this Earth by God’s Way not ours. Be spiritualized.
  • Breathing in me: Yes: We have Divine Life within us, for The Resurrected Jesus: " breathed on them (the Apostles) and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’…" (Jn. 20: 21)
  • We blend together: "Anyone who is joined to the Lord is one Spirit with Him" (I Cor.)
  • Harmony: Jesus said: "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Lk. 17: )

Practice getting into a sacred rhythm and pray in a holy (even bouncy) cadence. After all new age folks and yoga teachers give and repeat mantras (the word means mind training), so we Catholics have this ancient-mystical practice called aspirations: meaning lifting of the spirit. Thereby we calm our minds (gradually fudge out the chattery ego), liberate our souls (an "intuitional microchip" connectable to the Bliss Realm-Kingdom); and form a holy habit of Love and Peace which is practiceable anywhere, anytime.

PS: Substitute the word "sit" or "pray" for "walk" depending on your situation. Just do it!

The Gospel: Freedom to Love…

Gandhi emulated him. Robert Louis Stevenson protected him. The King of Hawaii gave him a gold medal. And yet he was despised and rejected by many. Still: his statue stands in the Untied States Capitol building. Bacially: He re-lived the Life of Christ­as we are all called to do in our own, unique way. He left all for All, and entered and died on an island "paradise- prison". He is St Damien the Leper Priest, who is canonized a saint by Pope Benedict Oct. 11­this Sunday!!! So: Let us not only adulate but imitate the saints.

Like others he was FREE TO SERVE thru a LOVING DETACHMENT. Saint Francis of Assisi detached from family to gain a new family of poverati-poor. St Ignatius left riches to help educate and evangelize others. St Elizabeth of Hungary left opulence to find regality in the sick and outcast. St Anthony of the Desert left home to give to the homeless and pray more. Ven. Charles deFoucould left Parisian-French sophistication to witness to Muslims. St Martin De Pores left creature comforts to ransom slaves in South America.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (St Mk. 10:17-30) Jesus meets the "rich young man," who is devout­keeping the Commandments, but who is kinda’ legalistic­going thru the motions: just doing the basics. Jesus calls him a step further: to perfection. Jesus wants to deeply free him.

Question: In America what’s "the elephant in the room" of Christianity? A.: Earthly riches. They prevent us from loving God and our neighbor more heroically. Many have too much­possessions, money and entanglements with the world, and get addicted and attached to them, thinking they make up our identity, our life and purpose. Saint Damien was freed to serve thru a loving detachment­he left a lot and gained a lot­as he said, his spiritual children­lepers of Molokai, whom he loved and brought dignity to and helped become saints.

Ask: what fears do you need confront to be freed to love God and serve? How can you image more radiantly the people­esp. the poor and vulnerable­the Lord is calling you to serve by leaving unnecessary possessions on earth? Trade in any lust for money to love for God. Exchange possessing possession to be possessed by God. The saints did it: so can you!

Marriage: it’s about the most needed Sacrament in the world-- the basis of a family which is the foundation of civilization Here are The ABC’s of Good Marriages:

  • A - Affection. Demonstrate in deeds--physically, your love for your spouse. Don’t just tell him/her. Don’t let anything get in the way of your love and lovemaking. Your love is spousal (for your mate alone) and God has given you the joy of human, sacred-sensual love. Have children if you can and give the Church some saints.
  • B - Believe: In God, the Sacraments­esp. the graces of the Holy Eucharist and Confession regularly. Believe what Jesus Christ said: "What God has joined man must not separate" (Mk. 10:9). Believe in your Faith (a virtue-power within) can sustain you and your spouse thru thick and thin. Believe in forgiveness. Believe in family harmony. Believe in working at your marriage: it works if you work it.
  • C - Contentment: Cultivate happy and joyful times together and sharing this with your children and others. Bring refreshment and lightness and springing energy to your spouse. Go on a second honeymoon, a couple’s night out. Bring joy and radiate peace to him/her as they come home from work or duties. Don’t’ choose detraction but attraction thru serene satisfaction!

Recently God showed me two sides and stories of marriage-both true. . One was my cousin’s wedding Chad and Tiffany­at high Noon, they were handsome and pretty. The other was meeting a married couple of thirty years whom I visited later that same day at twilight. The young couple was smiling; the other couple sacrificing and suffering a dying disease. The young couple had a Big Reception and bright day ahead of them; the other couple a shortened life and challenging night ahead. My cousins were hopeful and idealistic and the veteran couple expert and realistic. I left one couple having lots of fun and met another couple of full faith: They both showed me a lot and that life is made of both kinds of couples, and the latter couple inspired me greatly: Love when it really counts; trust in the Lord Jesus when you suffer; help your mate at all times; spread compassion, don’t separate when your mate isn’t’ feeling great. I was deeply touched by the tenderness and affection of this couple in their witness of married love.

Respond to those who either neglect or reject holy matrimony and do all you can to protect and promote healthy, happy and holy marriages! Marriage­Three Top Points are: 1-God has made marriage: fully realize you enter and continue a sacred institution! 2=You have to work at your marriage: keep communicating and seeking help and healing­be pro active! 3-Enjoy your marriage: Do you? Enjoy together movies and recreation and meals and religious occasions and all kinds of joys.

Couples I have known who have inspired me…

+Serve others in your marriage: Nan and Kirk go to serve the poor in Calcutta every couple years. +Be otherworldly: a priest friend said after meeting one couple with a bunch of kids: "They’re the most counter cultural couple and family I know­and the kids are happy. They radiate joy. I was refreshed being around them". +Three amidst your two: A couple was married and the priest said to the couple at the wedding that there are three in your marriage here­the bride, the groom and Jesus Christ: He is the spiritual glue of your marriage. +Spend time doing nothing: I see a couple sitting on their front porch frequently walking down High St.--just sitting there on their swing. +Second honeymoon: A couple went to Spain on a pilgrimage together and re-ignited their marriage. +Begin multiplying: One couple found out contraception was wrong and then gave money to spread the Good News­"Make love!" +Be different: one couple praised their differentness and their balance of one another. +Find and exemplify witnesses: One couple I met was married 74 years! Wow!

See the movie "Fireproof" --about a fireman "who values dedication and service to others above all else, and whose marriage is up in smoke. He desires then to transform his life thru the healing powers of Faith and the firemen’s code: "never leave your partner behind.’" Also read the book "The Love Dare"­which helps inspire spouses to do one act of love each day for their spouse.

Now, Top Ten Things To Do: 1-guys like flowers too: so give them….2-Girls like to wine and dine: just do it…3-Guys can give up some football or NASCAR for your bride…4-Girls can give up some favorite tv show…5-Share lovemaking more: God says so: "Be fertile and multiply" …6-Pray together: at least once a day…7-Write a Top Ten list of why you love him or her. 8-Stop doing annoying things. 9-Send him/her a love note: like why you married and still love your spouse. 10-Renew your vows together and receive some more grace

Also: Read the Biblical book, The Song of Songs about sacred-sensual love and God’s love for the soul. Encourage all to be chaste-e-asp those preparing for marriage. Did you know? –Sixty percent of those who cohabit before marriage are likely to divorce after marriage. Guys: be noble; ladies be elegant and continue to form a Culture of Life

Question: What do Thomas Jefferson, Oprah Winfrey and the Irish rock group/singer U2 have in common? A.: They might use some of the five most common words today--: I’m spiritual but not religious. More and more people today are balking at institutional religion. They see it as a block to their spirituality--let’s call them"spiritualists". While we Catholics believe in both religion and spirituality, we’re seen as "fossilized faith-dinosaurs" –and either as holy rollers or hypocrites, irrelevant today, ritualists who moralize too much. What are some of the reasons to this dire divorce of spirituality and religion?

Ritualism: some see our Masses as mechanistic and as sterile- routine: "spiritualists" might see Catholics as people who trod on spiritual conveyor belts and who may not be heartfelt or welcoming, just saying worship-words without heart. So, ask: Are our Masses and spirituality the living tradition of the dead or dead tradition of the living? Are you putting you heart into it-- Mass and prayer life­and welcoming others to our Masses and community actively? Let’s show our Mass and spiritual life lead to friendship. Is the Holy Spirit enlivening you? Are you actively participating in Mass and a dynamic prayer life?

Example­Like the Book of James professes­"faith alone without works is dead" (2:17)­so: let us connect Mass and the masses. My vacationing priest-friends and I recently met a surprise visitor, Pastor Dave, while fishing as he came in on his boat and began talking to us. Later he gave us a long boat ride, welcomed us into his home and gave us soft drinks, an offer for free to stay at his cabin-home, said how he welcomed others and poor families there for free stays, and gave us after only an hour the combination to his vacation home, and wouldn’t take any gas money for the boat. Besides: he was filled with the Spirit and effusively charitable and kind! What a witness of Faith and an excellent example of Christ’s Love Are we Catholics friendly and icons/window to Christ? Many Protestants excel at welcoming others to their communities and Faith­let’s do the same and not leave it up to anyone else.

Moralism: Laura Haber is a dynamic young lady, wife and mother of two who sees in the Catholic Church’s teaching the beauty of sacred sexuality­not fossilized faith. Catholics love loving! (See insert). I’m inspired by parishioners here, one who said: I’ve decided to stay in this community because of its outreach to the poor.

Look we have the vastest, deepest, highest spiritual and moral wisdom in the world and we need to share it! After all our Sacred Religion has produced artistic Michelangelos, scientific Galileos and Mendals, and biologists like Pasteur; poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Shakespeare; athletes like Vince Lombardi (attended daily Mass); renaissance men like Leonardo and Pope John Paul II; and, of course, some of the greatest of mystics like St Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. For us religion and spirituality are beautifully inter-woven!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi