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Fr. John's Column - June 26, 2016

I went whitewater canoeing this past Monday, an activity I have done for many years and enjoy a great deal. It is something I wish I had more opportunities to do and had even greater skill and expertise.

It was a perfect weather day and the water level in the river was ideal. I was on a section of a river I have canoed before. There was one set of rapids that – as we approached – seemed to be larger than I remembered them. As we scouted the rapids and determined the path we needed to take I felt nervous. I had successfully run these rapids before, but rapids change with the flow of water, and each time is different. There were several large boulders that formed a chute, and which had a great deal of water flowing through. Despite the fact that it was where the water was flowing the fastest and had the greatest drop was where I deemed the canoe needed to go.

I steered the canoe into the shoot and we were now committed, there would be no turning back. The canoe bounced in the water, the bow (front) dropped, and water flew up on both sides of the canoe. I called for my friend in the front of the canoe to paddle hard, to keep the canoe going straight. At this point there was little I could do other than say a brief prayer, enjoy the ride, and keep myself centered on my seat so the canoe would not tip too far to either side and fill with water.

We ran the rapids perfectly, the canoe not touching a single rock. We were sprayed with water as the canoe bounced down the drops. I know my heart was pounding more rapidly, but a sigh of excitement at our success would eventually slow its pace. More rapids would come, but none quite as big as this one had been. The rest would be paddled successfully as well.

But the day after running the rapids, I still found myself with a sense of fear: a little bit like falling off a horse and not sure whether I could get back on. I don’t where the feeling is coming from or why I feel as I do: it was an amazing day; we returned home safely. Am I getting too old to be playing on a river in a canoe?

We may find ourselves in a similar situation with our prayer life. The time we spend in prayer we may describe as “quality time” or say it was “fruitful”. But then one day it becomes dry, sterile, or dispassionate. We are left wondering what is wrong. Saint John of the Cross, a 16th century Carmelite priest and doctor in the church, tells us nothing is wrong. Essentially he tells us that what we are feeling is what Jesus himself felt: the call to remain faithful amid darkness. It is from the darkness that we find ourselves letting go of our pride, swelling with humility, becoming more vulnerable, and learning what real trust is all about. We are taken to a deeper level of faith, though the feelings may not be warm or snug.

I am left wondering if my feeling of fear is actually a journey toward a deeper respect for the river, a sense of my own frailty, a heightened sense of responsibility toward the other person in my canoe, a greater appreciation for the protection and gifts God provides, or something I have not yet been made aware of. Similarly uncomfortable feelings during prayer may be as Saint Paul tells us this week, that we are finally living more by the Spirit and letting go of things of the flesh. We may be entering the world of the great prophet Elisha, whom we also hear about this weekend: moving from a life with which we once were comfortable, saying “good-bye” to what we know, and embarking upon a path we know little about. All we know is that it is a journey, and as our Gospel reading proclaims: its destination is the kingdom of God. 

Fr. John Gerritts



Friday, June 24
8:00 AM Mass
10:00 AM Memorial Mass for Mary Marzolf

5:00 PM Wedding Rehearsal

~ Saturday, June 25
8:00 AM Dustbusters

10:00 AM Confessions
2:00 PM Wedding
5:00 PM Mass

~ Sunday, June 26
Masses at 8:30 AM, 10:30 AM & 7:00 PM
8:30 AM Baptism
7:00 PM The Flame

~ Monday, June 27
8:00 AM Mass

9:15 AM Bakery and Produce Give Away
6:30 PM Boy Scouts

~Tuesday, June 28
5:45 PM Mass

6:20 PM Family Rosary
7:00 PM Pastoral Council

~ Wednesday, June 29
8:00 AM Mass
10:00 AM Mass at CCH

~Thursday, June 30
6:45 AM Toastmasters

8:00 AM Mass
10:30 AM Mass at Old Comforts of Home
5:00 PM Summer Stretch Parent Night
6:00 PM TNT
~ Friday, July 1
8:00 AM Mass

~ Saturday, July 2
8:00 AM Dustbusters

10:00 AM Confessions
2:00 PM Wedding
5:00 PM Mass

~ Sunday, June 26
Masses at 8:30 AM, 10:30 AM & 7:00 PM
7:00 PM The Flame

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