Wednesday, July 31, 2013

the measure of devotion, and what to do about it

recently i watched a stroke patient with disabilities so severe he couldn't sit straight fight to rise from a wheelchair and walk unassisted through the front doors of the Basilique de Notre Dame de l'Immaculee Conception (english: Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) at the Sanctuaire de Notre Dame de Lourdes (english: Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes).

it was an agonizingly slow, painful process, with the man hunched over his curled, atrophied right arm and dragging a twisted, limp right leg. each step was a shuffle of the left foot a few inches forward, a lurch of the body to pull the other forward, and then a pause to balance the total precariously on a single good limb, before repeating the process once again.

he had only the assistance of 1 person who appeared to be a relative. but she did little other than to hold open the door to the basilica and motion for others behind them to go ahead and pass. i thought at first to try and help, but then i noticed that he had refused the offer of aid from church monitors and had left his wheelchair behind, and realized that for him, this was something that he decided he had to do on his own. not so much as a display of determination, but more an act of personal devotion to what he--and so many others like him--believe to be a place of miracles from the divine.

i have not gotten him out of my mind.

i am not Catholic, and don't consider myself particularly religious, but i found the image of him deeply moving. shuffling out from the glare of summer heat into the cool shade of the church interior, silhouetted against the votive candles and urn of holy water by the entrance, he was in that moment an expression of a commitment made to transcend the limitations of an earthly body and become an embodiment of faith to realize the possibilities of something more.

this is something that i can and must respect.

because i know the desire to exceed the confines of this physical body, the yearning to go beyond, the need for something greater. i know it as the motivation that drove me to undertake this life and take it with both hands and wrest it from its complacency and push it from its indolence and kick and drag and hurl and crawl and throw and scrape and stagger and fall...and shuffle...and a display of determination. as an act of devotion. to transcend the body. to realize something more.

because i know the meaning, the feeling, the living of the moment when you go beyond what you think is possible and you enter a different place entirely beyond anything you've ever known.

and because i know that means that devotion is not just about belief and that sometimes, just sometimes, faith is instead itself made manifest.

as the mantra says: nothing is impossible.

so who am i to judge another? we are, ultimately, all pilgrims on our own ways.

so what am i to do to help another? we can, and must, respect the pilgrimages we take.

so how am i to recognize another? we see the nature of our paths as we proceed, and acknowledge each other as we pass by, and remember that we believe in more than what is possible.

dominus vobiscum

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