Climbing a Spiritual Mountain

A member of Encounter Ministries told me a year ago that the Father was looking on me with great pride because of my perseverance, but this didn’t sink home until now. 

Welcome to article 30 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes."

By Br. Josh, MIC

I arrived at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on the evening of June 3rd. It was my first time experiencing the rhythm of normal life at this Marian house. There are duties serving in the liturgies, helping with Shrine work and an occasional drive to the airport, but I have a good deal of freedom. This is much appreciated, given the previous semester’s workload. 

I had time to write for the Marian Helpers Center, help with social media, keep up with my running, and study for the summer course I will be taking: Principles of Biblical Studies 2. This course surveys the New Testament, particularly the Gospels. I read one of the required textbooks while running on the treadmill and finished it during a hard 16-mile run with 1,700 feet of vertical elevation gain, a 400-foot higher ascent than I did when climbing a canyon wall in Utah. This run was so exhausting that I found myself clinging to bannisters afterward to support my bodyweight until I did my stretches. Persisting with this training gives me many sacrifices to offer up.

Welcoming
The Marian community is very friendly and welcoming, with Br. Ken finding me a fan to reduce the heat in my bedroom, and Br. Reuben volunteering to adjust my fascia with his sewing kit, as I am becoming too slender to fit in it. I enjoyed good conversations with Fr. Jonathan, Fr. Kaz, and others. It was good being in the same house again with my long-time friend Br. Eliott, who was a postulant with me with the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

The best welcome came from the Lord. As I settled into the house, I started experiencing dreams and vivid meditations that seemed to be inspired. Our Lady appeared in a dream, opening a fountain that poured water into the air. 

In another dream, I saw two beautiful snow-capped mountains covered with evergreen trees, similar to those I saw in the Rockies. Then, I saw a barren, broken lowland of rocks, and I heard a voice ask, “Where will you pitch your tent?” The mountains symbolized my dual vocation to the priesthood and religious life, and the other a life I was never meant for. 

On June 7, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I experienced a meditation where Jesus carried me as a lamb on His shoulders. I knew that I was a weak sinner needing Him to carry me, to save me. 

Arthur
The next day, while I was on the elliptical exercising and reading Stephen Lawhead’s fantasy book Arthur, the Lord suddenly brought some of His messages together.

Lawhead described King Arthur climbing a massive mountain with a friend named Cai, who was partly crippled. Arthur managed to make it all the way to the top with Cai, mostly carrying Cai up because he couldn’t do it on his own. When they returned to the camp below, days later, Cai’s father beamed with overwhelming pride at his son’s unexpected triumph. No one had climbed this mountain before, and his half-crippled son had managed it. Cai tried to give credit to Arthur, but Arthur wouldn’t let any honor be taken from him. 

This scene touched me very deeply. Tears streamed down my face as I ran on the elliptical, perceiving here an exact description of my relationship with Jesus and God the Father. I was “Cai,” the crippled son who could never reach the summit on his own. “Arthur” was Jesus, who truly carries me to my vocation’s fulfillment and honors me, despite being Himself the one who truly achieves everything. Cai’s father is my Father in Heaven who looks on me with incredible pride. 

Bringing the Word home
A member of Encounter Ministries told me a year ago that the Father was looking on me with great pride because of my perseverance, but this didn’t sink home until now. 

This fantasy scene tied directly to the prior dream I had about climbing mountains, and the meditation of Jesus carrying me on His shoulders. Father Kaz, my spiritual director, said this was “very powerful” and accurately reflects how God interacts with us. 

The next day, my sister Sarah told me that she had just climbed a mountain and sent me gorgeous photos from its snowy heights. Once again, the Lord brought His word home.

Next: "Saint Andrew Bobola’s Feast."
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