The wonder of living on holy ground

One warm, sunny, winter’s day I was driving home to the farm where I grew up. It was the last day of the year. The distant horizon was clear and close, as it appears in winter when there is little humidity in the atmosphere. 

A sense of otherworldliness touched me, as if I were viewing this reality from heaven. It was a blessed time. The family I loved was close to me, even those who were with me only in spirit. This felt like an invitation to be close to God.

An English mystic, Saint Julian of Norwich, once said, “See the courtesy with which God treats his creature!” God never insists with us. He never forces. We can say no and still be in a state of grace, but we may deprive ourselves of an adventure that could have been wonderful. 

“One of the pains of Purgatory, if one day God lets us enter there, [is] to have missed so many of these invitations of divine grace, sweet as the breeze that Elijah heard on the mountain announcing God’s visit.” (Aletia March.26, 2019)

God gives us many opportunities to grow in grace and to touch these sacred moments. “Wherever you are going, God has already been there and paved the way for you” (Matthew 6:27-30).

I remind myself of realities that witness to Christ’s presence…the places in the Holy Land where Jesus lived, fished, ministered, died, rose from the dead and ascended. We breathe the air Jesus breathed and walk the same earth.

One living witness stands in Sequoia National Park, California. The President is 247 feet tall and took 126 National Geographic photos stitched together to produce the first picture of this tree that was 1200 years old when Jesus was born.

Breathe the incense of the forest’s ferny floor. Touch the dew drops, a symbol of a divine gift. “I will be like dew to Israel” (Hosea 14:51). Dew appears in the dry season as an important source of living water, a gentle presence of the divine.

As an adult I had a dream in which I spoke with my late Father. I was visiting the spiritual landscape of my childhood. I was at the center of a medicine wheel, as in native spirituality where we are at the center of four directions. 

I saw many people in a procession of light coming from the north. Our faith community was gathering at the old stone church. To the east lay the farm where, through my parents, light first dawned on me. To the south lay the blue water knowledge of the schoolhouse, and to the west lay the red and black of the sunset.

The procession, led by my father and elders of my parish on horseback, was leading the Bishop to the church for Confirmation, the coming of the Spirit in our lives. 

All the earth is holy ground! That New Year’s Eve, as I drove home to the farm of my childhood, I was passing through sacred space not unlike Moses shepherding Jethro’s flock and encountered the burning bush. I was going back to the prairie pasture where I once herded my father’s cattle. 

Now I realize I am a different shepherd. We are shepherds of our families, our communities, our churches. Most recent members of my flock are my grand children. We live in special times, on sacred ground.

(572 words)

By Ken Rolheiser