Wandering in the Desert

Friday, Nov. 09, 2018
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

The desert has been my wandering place for months now, barren ground through which I have stumbled, occasionally on a path that at first seemed promising but ultimately led nowhere, most often aimlessly setting one foot in front of the other, driven by an unknown desire toward I know not what.

I have heard God’s promise to hold me in the palm of his hand, but I suspect I have bumbled my way onto his fingertip and slipped off the edge and now am in free fall though chaos.

My inchoate state is most likely due to the fact that I recently have abandoned the God who welcomed me, when, after decades as a prodigal daughter, I turned toward his embrace. I have no excuse for why, after too brief a time savoring his love, I have sneaked away again. True, I return to his house each Sunday, but only out of obligation. During that hour I mumble my way through the worship, wanting only for it to end so that I can slip out and return to worldly delights.

I had not intended to flee from him whom I had found after years of searching with restless heart, but having rested in him for only a short while I have responded yet again to the siren song of Babylon. My first step out of the Father’s house did not seem too bold a venture, but then there was another, and yet one more, and now I find myself in the wilderness.

The one signpost I have followed recently has been the rosary, which I prayed – not as frequently as I ought to have done but still a couple of times a week – at the request of Pope Francis, who is one of those responsible for my return to the faith. I acquiesced to his request to observe October as the month of the rosary primarily because of the words of St. Bernardine of Siena, who said, “You must know that when you ‘hail’ Mary, she immediately greets you! Don’t think that she is one of those rude women of whom there are so many – on the contrary, she is utterly courteous and pleasant. If you greet her, she will answer you right away and converse with you!”

I hesitate to call a saint a liar, but after a month of the rosary I know Our Lady no better than when I began. Only yesterday, while mourning and weeping about the lack of mercy she has shown to me, did I realize that what I had hoped would become a friendship has been nothing but a steady stream of rote prayers on my part. I have never given her a chance to speak a single word before I say amen and rush off to other pursuits.

God freed the Israelites from their Egyptian overlords and led them into the desert, crushing beneath the waves of the Red Sea the war chariots that pursued them on the orders of Pharaoh. Similarly, the waters of baptism washed me free from the mastery of sin, but now as I wander in the desert I craft golden idol after golden idol: good food to excess, lazy days rather than Christian duty, gossip instead of charity, incessant social media that takes me far from the narrow path that leads to salvation.

In his homily on Sunday at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Fr. Martin Diaz said the Dominicans call preaching the fruit of contemplation, and in the class I am taking I learned that the ancient scribes who penned the Scriptures sometimes are depicted as turning their heads from their manuscripts to listen to the Word of God. On my own I have nothing to say; it is only from contemplation that I express anything worthwhile. My prayer is now that I might write as the ancients did the Scriptures: author of my own life but with my actions inspired by the word of God.

Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic.

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