Five Steps for Walking in the Way

As I was reflecting on the fourteenth and last meditation before the Blessed Sacrament, I was wondering what would come next in this journey of ‘walking with my brother.’

So many are already writing so many good blogs on faith and on finding and following God’s way for us. I stopped to question what contribution I was making, whether to continue, what direction to take now that my meditation series is finished (for now anyway).

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Chris Lowney’s excellent and insightful book, Why Pope Francis Leads The Way He Does. In it he discusses good leadership qualities and relates them to Pope Francis’ Jesuit training in Ignatian spirituality.

Mr. Lowney describes a student from the Jesuit Schools of Italy and Albania where the Pope was speaking in June 2013. The young student asked the Pope to say a few words to help him in his spiritual growth. In the student’s words,

I am Francesco Bassani, of the Istituto Leone XIII. I am a boy who, Papa, as I wrote in my letter to you, seeks to believe. I am searching… searching, yes, to be faithful. However I have difficulties. Sometimes doubts come to me. And I believe that this is absolutely normal for my age…I wanted to ask you for a few words to help me in my growth and to support all the other young people like me.

Pope Francis responsed:

Walking is an art; if we are always in a hurry we tire and cannot reach our destination, the destination of our journey. Yet if we stop and do not move, we also fail to reach our destination. Walking is precisely the art of looking to the horizon, thinking about where I want to go, and also coping with the weariness that comes from walking. Moreover, the way is often hard-going, it is not easy. “I want to stay faithful to this journey, but it is not easy; listen: there is darkness, there are days of darkness, days of failure, and some days of falling… someone falls, falls”. Yet always keep this in your thoughts: do not be afraid of failure, do not be afraid of falling. In the art of walking it is not falling that matters, but not “staying fallen”. Get up quickly, immediately, and continue to go on. And this is beautiful: it is working every day, it is walking humanly. But also: it is terrible to walk alone, terrible and tedious. Walking in community, with friends, with those who love us: this helps us, it helps us to arrive precisely at the destination where we must arrive. I don’t know if I have answered your question. Have you understood? You won’t be afraid of the journey?

Well, I ‘walk VERY humanly’ indeed.

This response from Il Papa seemed to be a message aimed directly at my wavering heart.

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…do not be afraid of failure, do not be afraid of falling. In the art of walking it is not falling that matters, but not “staying fallen.” Get up quickly, immediately, and continue to go on.
Pope Francis June 2013

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It inspired the following five steps for ‘walking in the way.

Walking in the Way

  1. When we’re walking – remember that God is walking there beside us. Talk to Him. Enjoy His presence. Get to know Him along the Way. Thank Him for letting you feel His presence there with you.
  2. When we tire – rest, remember our purpose, recalibrate our destination, refuel our body, reflect on God’s goodness.
  3. When we’re refreshed, get up and move on along the way.
  4. ‘If we fall, get up,’ as Pope Francis says, ‘the failure is not in falling, the failure is in “staying fallen.”’
  5. Walk with others, with friends, those who can keep you from straying too far from the path, who can dust you off when you’ve fallen, those for whom you can return these favors.

Thank You, Father.

Meditation 14 – Return refreshed to the task of living

Well, My child, go now and resume your daily work. Be silent, be honest, be patient, be charitable, love very much the Blessed Mother of Jesus; and tomorrow bring Me a heart even more devoted and loving. Tomorrow I shall have new favors for you.

We’ve reached our 14th and last meditation before the Blessed Sacrament. I find myself wondering,

how on earth does anyone manage to do these meditations in just 15, 30, or even 60 minutes, as they sit with the Blessed Sacrament? It’s taken me two+ weeks to get through them. Do others think or meditate that much faster or more efficiently than I do?’

I get that writing down my thoughts and editing them to capture just the right message takes longer, but even if I adjust for these steps, I know myself well enough to know that if I’m not writing words onto paper, my mind wanders, loses focus, forgets important insights, and is, in a word, undisciplined.

I also find myself a bit relieved at having completed these meditations. I’m ready to go and ‘resume [my] daily work’ in the world, to rest and recollect my larger purposes for this space.

Our Father, knowing I was approaching this place, thankfully prepared the next step in my way. I found it last night in an excellent book I’m reading, Why Pope Francis Leads The Way He Does, by Chris Lowney. I’m anxious to share it with you.

“I’m coming, Lord.”

Meditation 7 – How do you lead?

Confide to Me your failures; I will show you the cause. Whom do you wish to see interested in your work? I am the Master of all hearts, My child, and I lead them gently where I please. I will place about you those who are necessary to you; never fear!

Failures…me? Please! (Editor Angel – Oh boy…this is could be a challenge!)

This task is either really easy…as in, ‘failures? what failures? Those little missteps were just necessary learning points along the way, right? Or really hard…as in, do you have all day?

Let’s see if I can break it down some. In this context failures, like forgetting someone’s name or being late to an appointment, while distressing at the time possibly, fall into the ‘relatively trivial’ basket.

Stepping up the scale a bit, I would call my ignoring God for so long a failure. I repented of this long ago, though, and have strong sense that God has forgiven me. That we’ve moved on. Plus, this failure mostly only affected me. Or, did it?

My failures of greater concern these days are those that might have hurt others in the past, or that personal demon that might still have some potential to threaten harm to others, now or in the future. These failures are those where I, in my ignorance or self-interest, may have led someone else astray or influenced them to make choices that were wrong or sinful in any way.

I think this is a burden we all bear, often without knowing or appreciating how important our behavior or our words are in another’s world, how much effect they might have on another’s decisions.

Might the strength of a young person’s personality or charisma encourage other young people to go out and party rather than to stay home study for an upcoming exam? What impression might the otherwise successful, fun-loving, articulate professional, who chooses divorce and the single life, make on another person struggling with marital challenges. How might a parent’s behavior, the example they offer day-in an day-out, affect their children? Or the children of their friends? Or the friends of their children?

These all fall into the ‘leadership’ bucket and are of continuing concern as we mature and grow into the person God intended us to be.

Chris Lowney in his new book,  Pope Francis, Why He Leads the Way He Leads, rightly asserts that all of us are called to be leaders

…whether we live that call as chief executives, parents, or, who knows, as someday a pope.

He says in order to lead we to need to be comfortable in our own skin.

Know who you are, the good and the bad. And find the courage not just to be yourself, but the best version of yourself. These are the foundations of self-leadership, and all leadership starts with self-leadership because you can’t lead the rest of us if you can’t lead yourself, if you haven’t done the work to know who you are.”

So, it’s these failures — failures of self-leadership, failures to realize (or to care about?) the critical roles we might be playing in others’ lives — that I would confide in God. Begging His forgiveness. Seeking His redemption.