In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says to His Apostles, “come away by yourselves and rest awhile.” It’s September, 1976. I’m living in the Bishop’s House in Fairbanks, Alaska, for recuperations from a hospital stay. In Northern Alaska, summer changes into winter!
This day, as usual, I am walking for exercise, a round trip of 8 miles to the Fairbanks Airport. I could feel the winter chill. No one is on the road. My spirits are hitting a new low, a common happening after sickness. At the Airport, as I sit down for my coffee and hamburger, I pick up an old, out of date “America” magazine – a Jesuit Weekly.
An article in it, written by a priest I know, Eugene Kennedy, catches my eye – “The Ministry of the Priest.” I devour the essay as much as I do the meal. In my low state of mind, the article gives me some new ideas on my Priesthood. I walk home, a different person, excited about my work ahead with the Eskimos of Western Alaska.
In my “rest” I was recuperating “physically”, but forgetting the Lord’s place in this time of “coming aside.” This article in the “America” magazine gave me “food” for my soul and thoughts of Christ.
Learn from my experience of long ago. We need open times in the day and the week to draw aside and rest. Physical rest alone will not put fuel into our mind for the uplift of our soul. I strongly encourage our readers to pick up books and articles that will feed the spirit and bring God into our thinking.
In my younger, more mobile days, I would love to visit the local library. Your local library is a real treasure house of reading material. Look for books and writings about the life stories of people who have made big differences in their lives and the lives of others. Just to mention a few of my favorites . . Michael Ramsey, former Archbishop of Canterbury of the Anglican Faith . . . Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran minister executed during World War II for his preaching against Nazism . . . Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, the Liberator of India from English rule by his use of non-violence.
Visit your local library often! Read . . . Read . . . Read!
Fr. George Mc Kenna
In recent years, I have come to value the sufferings of Jesus as never before. In my three pilgrimages to Jerusalem in 1995, ’96 and ’97, all taken in the month of January, I stayed with the Sisters of Sion, at their Center for Biblical Study. The address of their residence is 12, Via Dolorosa (The Sorrowful Way), the Way of the Cross. Just outside their front door stands the First Station of the Cross, “Jesus is Condemned to Death.”
Directly next door, to the east of the residence were two chapels, one of the Scourging of the Lord and the other, the Crowing of Thorns, both within 200 feet. Oftentimes, in the early morning or late evening, as I stood on the second floor balcony, I imagined I could hear the swish of the cat-of-nine tails descending on the bruised back of the Lord. At other times, as the soldiers drove the thorns into His Head, the pain-filled cry of Jesus touched my heart to its depths.
In the Lower Level of the residence was the original courtyard of Pontius Pilate, where Our Savior received His unjust sentence of Crucifixion. As I offered Mass there in this low ceiling Holy Place, the huge stone slabs seemed to cry out – “Be holy as the Master was holy! Suffer your trials in life with patience!” Yes, as I lived for many days in this area of Christ’s Sufferings, these three years changed me.
During my stay, every day I walked the three blocks of the Way of the Cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the place of the Crucifixion. Only three blocks – but how exhausting was the experience with the rough roadway ascending and descending, twisting and turning, at times leading through the crowded bazaars. In those three years I discovered the Chapel of Veronica at the Sixth Station, a heavenly place to offer Mass. I asked God to let me be a person like her and give comfort to the Suffering Christ. Remember, she wiped the Face of Christ.
From these experiences I concluded that sin can have no place in my life.
Fr. George Mc Kenna