St. Bernard of Clairvaux, doctor of the Church, and whose memorial it is today, asked himself daily, “Why have I come here?” The question reminded him to respond, “To lead a holy life.” With the challenges facing society today, it’s easy to lose sight of our purpose. We should ask ourselves that same question and respond with the same answer.
Today’s scripture readings for the Memorial of St. Bernard give us clues as to how to do just that. First, we have to accept that we are God’s Beloved, that the Father loves us as He loved His only Son, that He has loved us for all of Eternity, and that He remains in us if we remain in Him. (Jn 17:20-26). In our daily prayer we need to give thanks for His great love and return that love to Him, and then, throughout the day, pass it along to others.
We need to seek God with all our heart and desire to do His will and keep His commandments and, thus, find joy more precious than any riches. (Ps 119:9-14). We need to ask God to send His Holy Spirit into our hearts, to open them wide to receive the message of His will for us that day, make a resolution to follow through on that message, and to rejoice when we have successfully completed our resolution.
We can’t sit idly by and not try to grow in holiness. We need to sit with our Blessed Mother, Mary, Seat of Wisdom, in praying the Rosary, and trust in her to teach us as she taught her son, Jesus, to Whom she will bring us (Sir 15:1-6).
These things don’t happen by themselves. They happen when we intentionally take time daily for solitude and silence, making time for prayer and conversation with God, telling Him what’s on our heart and, more importantly, listening to Him speak to it.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love, a love so deep that You gave Your only Son so that I might live with You for all of Eternity. Thank You for the desire to do Your will and grow closer to You. And, thank You for our Blessed Mother, who gives me strength and teaches me to live a virtuous life. St. Bernard, pray for us. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!”
(Why Are You Here? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
In our pastor’s weekly Friday email to his parishioners last week, he mentioned that many people are on edge because of the challenges and upheaval that seem to be occurring in our country this summer. He recognized how good it would be for us to find some peace – “peace in our hearts…homes…communities…nation and world. We know that the Lord Jesus gives us a peace that the world cannot give, but we also know that we need to do our part to bring about peace.” He suggested two ways we can bring about our own peace: to not be troubled by trouble, and to spend time outdoors. This road trip has fulfilled both of those requirements for me, bringing me much peace.
Being troubled by trouble means, to me, letting events and situations that I don’t like, did not choose, cannot change, and even things that are beyond rational understanding, control my emotions. It includes worrying about the future. Here in the mountains of Montana, it is so very easy to forget about the outside world and all that is going on. We have no television, and we have limited cellular access so it is difficult to stay up on current events. After two weeks of this life it makes me want to never listen to or read a news report again. In place of those distractions, I have spent more time in prayer, time with family, and time in nature. All have brought me peace.
Rising early in the morning to spend time in mental prayer is something I do on a daily basis, even at home. But, sitting outside on a brisk morning in July/August, next to the little creek that runs just a few yards in front of the cabin, takes peaceful meditation to a whole new level. I not only read and hear the word of God, but it’s easy to feel His presence around me as I pray.
We spent most of our first week here with our children and grandchildren. After they left on Wednesday, Melinda and I had the cabin to ourselves for a couple days. On Friday, Melinda’s sister and her husband arrived from Marble Falls, Texas to stay at the cabin for a couple weeks after we leave. Another sister and her husband came in from Rapid City, South Dakota on Friday and stayed through Sunday. Together, we took advantage of the mild weather and spent peaceful time outside in nature as we hiked, fished, and sawed and cleaned up fallen timber around the cabin.
Talking about fishing, I fished Rock Creek on Thursday and got shut out, but caught a nice Rainbow and a small Brown trout on Saturday.
Melinda and I hiked the Corral Creek Trail, or rather, we hiked the first mile of the trail which included an 800 foot elevation gain, before we reached a questionable log bridge we would have had to cross. We decided it was a good place to turn around and head back down.
We saw many beautiful wildflowers lining the trail and took time to examine them and take photos. The trail itself was only a couple feet wide so we were thankful we saw no bears with whom we would have had to share that narrow path.
Talking about bears, Melinda and I were driving down the dirt road that runs along Rock Creek on Thursday evening and, as we rounded a bend, a large black bear crossed our path just a few yards in front of us. It stopped, looked at us and then headed up the hill towards our cabin. Fortunately, we didn’t see him again.
But, on Friday evening, we were looking out a window of the cabin and a cow moose and her calf came trotting up along side. Seeing Melinda’s sister walking up the path towards the cabin, the moose stopped in the middle of our outdoor sitting area. Moose are huge! And, a mama moose can get belligerent if she thinks her calf is in danger. Fortunately, she must not have felt threatened and they turned and sauntered back down the hill.
On Sunday evening, we drove up Rock Creek Canyon to the end of the road hoping to see more wildlife. They must have heard us coming because all we saw was a doe deer, a chipmunk and a squirrel. But, as a consolation prize, God granted us an almost unbelievably beautiful view of the creek and the mountain from which the creek flows. The sun shining on the mountain top was truly magnificent!
We packed and loaded up on Monday morning and began our return trip home. Our destination for the night was Rapid City, South Dakota to spend a couple days with Melinda’s sister and her family. But, first we stopped in Billings to visit an old friend, Mikey, with whom I used to work many years ago. The very first time I ever met Mikey in 1986 I asked him where he was from, and he replied, “God’s Country!” Not knowing where that was I asked him to be more specific to which he replied, “Montana”. Ever since then he has invited me to stop and see him the next time I came to “God’s Country”. This time I finally obliged his invitation. Mikey, it was great to see you and Annette again after so many years. Thanks for lunch!
Driving across the plains of northeastern Wyoming, we saw many pronghorn antelope beneath dark gray storm clouds that, thankfully, we were able to outrun. As we neared South Dakota, the Black Hills provided the perfect visual backdrop for praying our daily Rosary with our friend from Louisiana, with whom we joined our prayers with those of our Blessed Mother for the many people we know who are suffering. It was a perfect and peaceful way to end the day.
“Oh, Glorious God, thank You again for the beauty of Your creation, both the natural beauty and that which resides in the hearts of friends and family. Thank You for the peace You bring when we immerse ourselves in Your loving gifts instead of the fleeting pleasures the world has to offer. Amen.”
(Road Trip Reflections: Finding Peace in “God’s Country” was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)