Dear Brothers and Sisters,
You may have noticed that the past few days I was not in the parish. I have not gone away, or isolated because of Covid. I was part of a pilgrimage that the members of the Neocatechumenal Way organized for the youth of the whole United States. The youth have gone to various parts of the country in preparation for a vocational meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio in Gettysburg, MD.
Our group from the parish was made of 30 youth and a few adults that accompanied as chaperones. We joined other groups of Boston making a group of 80 people. Together, we brought the youth to a different pilgrimage than what we are used to. Instead of visiting churches made by human hands, we visited the beautiful shrines that were made by the hands of God. We visited the Southwest of the United States, including the Grand Canyon and other National Parks.
Being the first time that I visited that area, I was left speechless looking at it. I have gone to many different parts of the world, including the city of Petra, the Pyramids of Egypt, but nothing is like what we saw. I was very amazed looking at the beauty of each place, at how God crafted all of it only for us! All the geological formation of those parks were something spectacular. At the Grand Canyon, we had an opportunity to spend 30 minutes in silence in contemplation of God’s work. Again, there was nothing like that. All the paintings and buildings in the world, there is nothing like what we saw. Just imagine that God spends millions of years preparing for the moment which we spend in adoration of his creation. There Psalm 8 came into my mind, especially where it says, “O Lord, our God, how great is your name above all the earth…When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you arranged. What is man that you think of him, mortal man that you care for him?” That moment that we spent there, I thought to myself, why would God create such marvel in nature? Looking at that size of the Canyon, what is a human being, like myself, compared to that immensity. The only answer that I thought was, God made this out of love for me. We all know that God loves us, but looking at it, I realized that He really, but really really loves me/us!!!
This pilgrimage altogether helped me to refocus in God’s love. I have said many times that realizing God’s love helped me to go ahead with ordination, but this trip helped me almost fall in love for God again. Many saints have said that each day we need to fall in love for God. Each day He comes looking for us. The danger we have is since he is always near us, we may take him for granted. But again, looking at Bryce Canyon in Utah, how those rocks were carefully designed, we can’t think anything other than the love of God. St. Thomas Aquinas explains God’s creation by the beauty of nature. It is so beautiful that is impossible to be created by chance. We know looking at it that someone must have created purposely all of it. And once again, why? Sheer love for us.
The pilgrimage also helped me to study in more depth the evangelization of the Southwest of the US. The brave men and women who ventured into those lands for no reason other than for the love of God. In a special way, it struck me how the Navajo tribe was evangelized. The Navajo language is especially hard to learn. So difficult that, the sheer fact that the missionaries were able to learn the language, it opened their ears to hear their message. A few weeks ago, the Church celebrated Saint Jose Anchieta, a Jesuit from Spain who also learned the native language spoken in Brazil. These men were able to learn the language better than anyone, but only because of God’s grace. In many parts of the world, the best grammar for the native languages were written by missionaries, in an effort to spread the Gospel of God. This is particularly encouraging to know how God is always close to us and gives us the graces necessary to fulfill the mission that He gives us.
I hope that sharing a bit of experience helps you to always search for God’s love in an ever renewed way, so that we may never grow tired or bored of him, but may experience him in different and more profound ways.
Father Steven Clemence