Editor’s Note: Article originally published in October 18, 2018.
As a child I had a fascination with maps, geography, and the idea of being on a quest. My favorite books to read as a kid included the famous Greek epic The Odyssey and the Redwall Series by English author Brian Jacques. Both included a sense of adventure whereby the main character(s) trekked across dangerous terrain and met obstacles to overcome (external and internal struggles) before arriving at their destination towards the end of the story. The word odyssey means journey, pilgrimage, or trek.
As a father of four [one is in utero!], I am able to reacquaint myself with the sense of life as a voyage. Frequently, I lose sight of reality as the flood of daily temptations, confusion, and struggles assail me. My 5-year-old daughter definitely got her penchant for atlases from me. Almost every day, she asks me, “Daddy! Can you please get me paper and markers for me to make a map?!” Cartography reigns supreme in my household—especially on rainy days!
Life is a Journey
The other day I read an article online that referenced the importance of returning to a sense of voyage. A quote from St. Thérèse of Lisieux stuck in my mind after I went on with the rest of my day. The Doctor of the Church wrote, “The symbol of a ship always delights me and helps me to bear the exile of this life.”
Her words convey a truth that something about sea travel points to a higher reality. Perhaps it is because we named our child Noah, named after the Old Testament figure who crafted the ark, that I tend to have boats on the mind—at least subconsciously. Or maybe, there is something innate in each of us that desires the continual movement that travel affords us. St. Augustine famously declared, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in you [God].”
Here is a well-written and easy to understand article on the connection between Noah’s Ark and its prefiguring of the Catholic Church: Ten Ways Noah’s Ark Prefigured the Church. Just as the giant boat housed the holy individuals of Noah and his family, so too, does the Catholic Church safeguard individuals striving for holiness against the dangers of the deluge of temptations!
Hope on the Heavenly Horizon
Another important point that stands out regarding the maritime theme is that life is bearable when we look to the Promised Land—Heaven—as our destination. When times get tough, during the turbulence of life we look beyond our vehicle, and outside of ourselves toward the horizon—toward the rising of the Sun [Son]!
Every quest involves dead-ends, treacherous terrain, and wild beasts [physical and/or spiritual]. Fellowship is essential for any journey—just ask Frodo the Hobbit!
Knowing life is a voyage helped remind me I’m not alone in the journey. God send you helpmates along the way!
Family. Friends. Saints.
When life gets your down and despair sets in, please be reminded that you still have a road ahead. You have the ability to pick the road on this pilgrimage of life. Make life more joyful by following the witnesses of the holy ones before us!
P.S. Congratulations on finishing your latest (reading) voyage!
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