I spend my lunch time taking a walk at one of two places–one an active convent with beautiful grounds that include several nature trails and the other an abandoned Capuchin Friary where Solanus Casey once lived. Both offer me a variety of places to stop and reflect on the meaning of the mysteries of the rosary in the lived lives of both places–usually at the cemetery where I pause and reflect that surely one or two or more saints are buried who will join their prayers to mine.
Yesterday was a rather eventful day. I was at the convent and noticed police tape blocking the entrance to a path down a hill that includes a grotto of the resurrection and a downward path of the Stations of the Cross. A short walk under the tape and I discovered the reason why–a wall had tumbled down as the result of all the rain that we’ve had in this part of the country this Spring–a landslide. I think I was up the second joyful mystery–the visitation. I wondered what this act of nature might signify? I noticed that the display of the stations had not really been affected by the landslide but that the resurrection grotto had–it was as though the “removed stone” had been placed back at the entrance. I thought of the preoccupation of the women walking to the tomb “who will remove the stone?” and thought that this probably was the worry now of some of the nuns at the convent but probably only a few.
This convent is primarily interested in the environment. Nothing wrong with that. Trees are identified throughout the property and dedicated to various sisters. No Hunting or Fishing signs dot the landscape. It all makes for a very peaceful place at least from the perspective of violent people anyway. But nature is not really peaceful as the landslide near the fourteenth station demonstrates and the illusion has sometime been given that “man” is responsible for all the ills of nature–but indeed man is not the only creature that is fallen in Christian belief, rather it is all of creation.
Next I made my way to the graveyard. It is usually the place where I notice the most activity. New graves appear almost weekly as the rapidly dwindling numbers of nuns are laid to rest. There are a few stones from the 1980’s that commemorate the missing bodies of nuns who gave their bodies to science but that fad seems to have passed now. On this day there were new deep holes burrowed into the earth for the placement of new grave-markers. The ten or so prepared last year are only one from being all used up. It is now the fifth joyful mystery the Finding of Jesus in the Temple–I wonder as I often do when I visit either of these sacred places (the abandoned friary and the soon to be abandoned convent) if Christ has been lost or is this just the natural cycle of religious communities?
Now I am on the trail of God’s Splendid Creation as one of the sister’s has entitled it on the sign that tells me the meandering path is .8 of a mile. Nature has ravaged this path also as the torrential rains have left huge piles of sand at the base of a hill that normally is very dry but now still wet weeks after the last rainfall. A deer is startled by my entrance into the forest and creates quite a stir as it flies over fallen trees and brush to make its way deeper into the forest. It is the first Luminous mystery–The Baptism of Jesus by John “I must decrease and he must increase,” crosses my mind as I also think of the psalm “like a deer that yearns for running water so my soul thirsts for you my God!”
About half-way to the end of the path, the deer emerges again. Once again the sound of broken limbs under the weight of the deers landings, this time joined by squirrels scurrying in every direction. One squirrel winds his way around a tree and looks out at me with expectation of a treat–a little too tame for my liking. It is the third luminous mystery–Jesus preaching the Kingdom of God–“seek first the Kingdom of God” I think as I run past the tree where the squirrel lurches out from for some reason fearing that he will jump upon me and attack me for not having brought him any nuts. He does not and I go back to trying to seek God’s dominion over me.
At the end of the trail I emerge upon the road lined with trees that leads back to the convent. I notice the deer’s head staring at me from across the road, his ears flicking. I imagine the deer thinking that I’m following him. I walk closer to him and he doesn’t move this time. Perhaps they feed him too, I think. I am now only five feet from the deer and I talk to him. He only cocks his head this way and that but doesn’t flee until I turn to continue my journey. The fourth luminous mystery–the Transfiguration, an invitation to encounter Jesus in the Old Testament I think meditating on the significance of Moses and Elijah the prophet.
The sun beats down mercilessly and the tar is soft under my feet. I look back and see the deer still peering at me watching to see if I really am going in a different direction. I am, my lunch time nears its end. The maintenance worker is mowing the grass. His plumb body hangs over the sides of the seat and his beard covers his chest. As I make my way to the parking lot I notice his license plate “Rode Kill” misspelled I reason because someone must have already had “road kill” in this state of connoisseurs of varmint meat. On the side of his truck he has a bumper sticker, “I love animals…they taste real good.” The fifth sorrowful mystery–the Crucifixion. In the way a sinner is attracted to the cross of salvation, I reason, perhaps this man with his desires was attracted to the environmental sisters.
So be it! Amen.