|On the roof of the Notre Dame Center,|
Sometimes it's a simple rock, or leaf, or shell. It might be a rosary, a statue, or an icon. Maybe even a t-shirt, or a scarf. Why do we feel compelled to bring back some kind of souvenir? Why do we want something that we can see, that we can touch? We've had such a wealth of experiences, such graced moments in prayer, and of fellowship. Why do we need souvenirs?
For the same reason that God entered into history, into a specific place and time. We are human beings. We have a spiritual side, but also a physical side. We need images, actions, and symbols to help us express ourselves when we can't quite find the words to do it.
These items are usually not great or valuable treasures in themselves, but when we see them and when we touch them, they, as if by magic, transport us back to another place. We can hear again the noise of the streets and the refrains of the shopkeepers beckoning us into their stores. We can feel our legs tire as we remember climbing that mountain, or feel the wave that tried to wash away the perfect shell. We can still smell the myrrh of the stone that we pressed that rosary against. In this sense, every story of the Gospel has become like a souvenir. Each passage calls to mind a church, or a landscape, or a savored moment of prayer. No longer will they be stories in a book - they will take on a life of their own.
There is something sad about leaving these places behind, but it is an essential part of our pilgrimage. In fact our work is really only beginning. This gift, this blessing of spending six weeks in the Holy Land was never intended for us. It was always meant to be shared. As much as we've tried to do that through this blog, and through our photos, it could not be complete without us returning home to our loved ones and sharing our experiences face to face, and heart to heart.
T.S. Eliot penned the following lines, which seem to describe it best:
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Our journey could not be complete without coming home, true, but there's something else, as well. We have changed. Our time here, spent in search of the voice and face of the Lord, has made us different. How could it not? None of us returns exactly the same as he left - but that is what happens when you encounter the Living God.
We come back like the women from the tomb, proclaiming that Christ is truly risen, as He promised. We come back like the disciples from Emmaus, knowing that He is always with us in the breaking of the bread. We come back like the apostles bursting out of the Upper Room on Pentecost, on fire and eager to tell of the glories of the Lord.
We come back, yearning to give away that which has been given to us. We come back in the humble yet eager hope that we will soon be able to serve you as priests.
Thank you all so much for your generous prayers and support. May Our Risen Lord bless you, and may Our Virgin Mother keep you always under the protection of her mantle.
- USML Class of 2014