Fr. Paul Mark Schwan shares on the journey home: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. This ancient proverb served as my mantra as I made the arduous 4000-mile journey by car, from California to North Dakota, to spend a week with my aging parents, ages 97 and 94, respectively. While it is our Trappist-Cistercian practice that our families visit us here at the monastery, when health issues and age prevent them visiting we go to visit them.
It cannot be determined if there will be a future visit with my parents. While both have sharp minds their health is deteriorating, making this a particularly meaningful visit. The time with them as well as with each of my six siblings contained depth and emotion that words can never capture. It was a visit full of grace, as much as was the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary of Nazareth. By this I mean God’s intentional presence intervened, nurtured, consoled, and strengthened each of us during this poignant visit.
I came to realize that the visit was a summary of my life and how my parents and siblings made me the person I am today. The perspective of my own 65 years of life, 41 of these in the monastery, revealed to me how we were formed as a family, as a community of nurturance, of faith, of hope, and love. Ours was not a perfect family, not that any exist, but we are a close knit, strong, respectful family, rooted in gospel values that endure and build-up, not tear down and destroy.
This was ultimately a journey into the inner geography of my heart. And the footprints of my journey discovered there, will continue to nurture me to the day when I and my parents shall dwell forever in the fullness of God’s trinitarian life.”