"On the day that the brethren return from the journey, let them lie prostrate on the floor of the oratory at all the Canonical Hours, when the Work of God is finished, and ask the prayers of all on account of failings, for fear that the sight of evil or the sound of frivolous speech should have surprised them on the way."- Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 67
Thoughts of journeys have been present in my mind for several months. My current inteim pastorale is almost complete. On December 27th, it will be time to pack up my suitcase and to take up my pilgrim's staff, and be on my way. Interim's are pilgrims. While leaving those we have grown to love is always painful, the pain is balanced by the wonder of where the Spirit might next lead. My suitcase and pilgrim's staff always sit beside the pulpit. They tell the world, I am always ready to begin my journey. That journey will be accompanied by the prayers of the congregation I am leaving, the one where I am ariving, and my sister and brother Benedictines who constantly hold me in their hearts and prayers.
Recently, another type of journey has penetrated my life. Two weeks ago, my mother entered her last pilgrimage, the one into what some term the "undiscovered country." For at 6:45 pm CST, on November 10th, she closed her eyes for the last time. Two days later my wife's cousin, Rev. John Bachman, left to accompany her on that journey.
Unlike the journey I am always ready to begin as an interim pastor, I was ony somewhat ready for John's journey. it was expected, but it still was painful. My mother's departure was not at all expected. I would be untruthful if I told you that her departure has not deeply effected me. In fact it has occasioned grief such I have not known for years. But in the midst of my grief, there is hope. It is a hope spoken of by Mary Pickford as she described the voyage of a tall ship.
"I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails in the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she is only a ribbon or white cloud, just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.” Then someone at my side says, "There, she's gone!"
“Gone where? Gone from my sight; that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight, to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her; just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There! She's gone!" there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "There she comes!" And that, friends, is dying.”
Grief never goes away. After awhile it penetrates one's life less and less, but it never truly disappears. Until the day when I myself board that ship, I will grieve for the death of my mother Marie, and for Pastor John. But I know their departure from this shore has been accompanied by the prayers of many of Christ's people. And on their arrival on the other side of the curtain through which we cannot see, other prayers will great their resurrections.
I was not ready for the beginnings of their journeys. But through the grace of our l:ord Jesus Christ I know they are safe in the landfall of resurrection. For that, through my tears, I offer my thanks and praise.