The winding road up

To get to LaSalette in France one has to take a steep, winding road, often coming to a stop in order to negotiate a hairpin up an 8,000-foot mountain, passing one hamlet upward, and then another, and then a third, the road often precariously narrow, with no guard rail and nothing but a sheer drop toward those hamlets, which soon appear as spots and then specks below.

It is the same in life: Just as steep winding roads often lead to sites of the Blessed Mother in Europe and elsewhere -- in the Andes -- so do steep winding roads, up the "mountains" in life, lead, often, to contact with Heaven. What is good is often most difficult. The narrow gate is reached by a narrow, harrowing, sometimes slippery, even treacherous road.

It takes focus to keep on the road and prudence on how fast to go and attention to detail so one does not get lost, so that one makes the right decisions at crossroads. It is the "road less traveled" and while we remain united in Christ and find potent experiences with others, often we must head off by ourselves; we must forge our own way; we have more of an identity and closeness with God in this way. It is off the beaten path at Laus in France that one finds powerful Grace and off the beaten path in the vicinity of Fatima that one can visit almost alone with Mary at the spot where she appeared (away from Fatima itself this one time) and way off the highway that one reaches LaSalette and it is in this shepherd way (sheep at Laus, cows at LaSalette, sheep at Fatima) that we too are peasants tending livestock in touch with Heaven on a stony hillside.

Seek this solitude. Seek this unworldliness. Seek this simplicity, which breeds humility. Head above the fray. Move up beyond the clouds.

Often we learn and cleanse the most when we go "off the beaten path," divorcing ourselves from the "world" and delving deeply and privately in prayer; we advance when we formulate personal prayer from the heart and have traversed beyond religiosity into spirituality.

Away from the world, away from "convention" -- above what is rote, beyond how everyone tells us to comport ourselves -- is the chance to examine the conscience and it is in this examination, alone with God, perhaps through the sacraments, perhaps in simple alone time, that we best attain introspection.

The more we examine our deepest consciences (with the help of the Holy Spirit, in the Name of Jesus) the closer we come to discovering who we really are and the closer we come to discovering who God designed us to be; the closer we come to realizing our missions.

When we examine the conscience we peel away layers of falsity that society has heaped on us or that we have heaped on ourselves. Truth shoots forth like a sprout from rocky springtime soil.

This is the peasant way. It is a winding road beyond the world and the pretenses of those who practice religion but not the spirituality behind it. There are some who in their religiosity are tethered to this world. Their cache is of the earth. They debate and are encrusted with what is pedantic, looking down at mystical inclination and congratulating themselves on being "down to earth" when in fact we are called to transcend the world (with humility). There is worldly religion and there is spiritual religion. True love and true religion come only through humbleness. Aren't we all guilty of lacking it? Can we not even have pride in not having pride? Once we forsake the awards, recognitions, and adulations of this life, we are closer to God.

It is the way of the peasant. It is where shepherds go. Look who the angel appeared to, announcing a Newborn? There is the complaint of goats, of cows, lowing, echoing in the distance, a backdrop to prayer and the only sound.

Go off by yourself. The more "alone" we are, the more surrounded by angels.

Do you still savor awards? Do you still boast of accomplishments? Do you still resent those who disagree with you? Do you still give more time to someone who is "rich" than to others (even at church)? Do you feel twinges of jealousy when you see someone's car or house? Do you judge others on the clothes they wear? Do you revel in the failures of others? Do you still view yourself as superior to someone, anyone, in any fashion (including spiritually)? Do you still compete to be first?

More than anything, it is a final setting forth to shuck what is worldly.

Realize this, says 2 Timothy 3:1-7, that in "the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

How surprised we will be in our afterlives to discover that in all the quibbling we failed to exercise the chief tasks of Christianity. Without humility, we have no advancement. Seek to impress no one but Christ. When we want recognition and wealth and debate and argumentation we are taking the low, easy road down. We seek only low-hanging fruit (as Eve did, in the Garden). We head away from direct entry into Heaven. There is the flaming sword. And so the choice is always: this world, this flesh, this hubris we call prestige, or direct contact with God.

[resources: The God of Healing]