"I have fought the good fight, 
I have finished the race,  I have kept the faith." 
Saint Paul


by Julie Onderko on 11/07/16

Most mornings at 5:10 a.m. Gus and I (Gus is my black lab) are meeting friends, Kathy and her dog Luke, at a woodland trailhead for a hike.  It’s still dark, so we wear headlamps as we traverse the rough path through the woods.  The goal–the top of the mountain—but we can only see one step at a time. 

We pray aloud and meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary as we hike.  Prayer allows us to see that we are on a spiritual journey.  We often pause, turn out our lights, and look up at a canopy of stars shining through the tall timber; it’s like our own cathedral. 

The changing seasons and different weather conditions add a beauty of their own to our cathedral; fog is a soft blanket of grace, city lights in the distance are our stained glass windows, and just before daylight during spring and summer, our cathedral has the most magnificent choir—the birds are busy announcing the coming of a new day and so we are gifted with “sacred” music. 

On life’s journeys, God gives us the angels with their superior intellect, and abilities, to be our companions, guides, and protectors.  It wouldn’t be prudent to set out into the dark woods without some protection. We have our dogs, with their superior senses of smell, hearing, and vision, as well as their instinct to protect. They are like the “angels” in our “cathedral.”

Yes we have stumbled over roots and fallen, or had a difficult time praying as we struggle to catch our breath near the summit.  We can get blind-sided too. Once after a storm, I was following Kathy up the trail and intently watching the lit area directly in front of me—after all, there were branches down and mud to deal with.  She saw a huge branch arched across the trail and ducked underneath (and assumed that I saw it too) but I walked right into it.  My forehead was no match for that sturdy limb and I was knocked to the ground. 

Life can be like that too.  We can be going along, doing what we are supposed to be doing, stepping out in faith and keeping our eyes on the path, when we will get hit with something hard and unexpected.  At times like this it is important to keep putting one foot in front of the other—one step at a time, even if that step is greatly modified or requires the help of others. 

Occasionally, we have been our own worse enemy and sabotaged our prayer because we got distracted and started talking about all kinds of unimportant things.   Just like in everyday life, we get back on track and begin again “…Hail Mary, full of grace…” one step at a time.    

Along life’s journey, God gives us companions, encouragement, and a host of beautiful gifts—like an outdoor cathedral, a good friend, and a loyal dog—everything we need to make the trip, including the faith required…if we ask for it.  But He doesn’t illuminate our entire path.  Rather, He often allows us to see only one step at a time.  Steps 2, 3, 4 and so on, are usually not illuminated for us until we get to them—we simply are not ready beforehand. 

Our goal?  Heaven.  Our part?  Taking one step of faithat a time. 

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