I'd like to take a few days on this blog to reflect on the past week. It was a week of convergence. I traveled to some of the most beautiful places on this planet, beholding God's grandeur in nature; I went to a show on the Las Vegas "Strip" that showcased (at least for me) some of the ways that God's creative design of the human mind and spirit come together in an extraordinary way; all of this while reading Elie Wiesel's Night.
Let's start with the beauty of God's grandeur. I was so thrilled to be able to hike through Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in southern Utah. First, some photos taken at Bryce.
These towers are called "hoodoos," formed from millions of years of erosion
This photo was taken shortly after sunrise on Thursday morning. Notice how the sun lights the interior of the formation, almost like there is a lamp lighted in between the hoodoos.
I took this photo during a noon hike through the canyon.
I spent most of Friday and the early part of Saturday hiking the many trails in Zion National Park. It was absolutely breathtaking. And with the elevation, it WAS absolutely breath taking! Here you can see the trail, heading from the valley floor. This was the "Angel's Landing" trail. Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the hike the last half mile because of the fear that gripped me on the final leg of the trail. At one point, the trail is only a few feet wide and is a sheer one thousand foot drop down on either side. And the trail was packed with people and the wind was howling. Just didn't see the point of putting myself through that kind of stress! Yes, I was scared. But look at this amazing beauty.
On Saturday morning, I hiked up a trail leading to three emerald pools. This is the final and highest pool. You can see me standing there; this will give you some idea of the vastness of these spaces.
I did lots of reflecting as I hiked, praising God for this tiny piece of creation in a cosmos too large for me to comprehend. The vastness of spaces like this make my brain feel so small and I just feel so tiny in the grand scheme of the created universe. Yet, I felt that God was somehow reaching out to let me know that I, too, am part of this beauty of creation.
I was struck at the number of international visitors present on the trails at both Bryce and Zion. My guess is that 80% of the people were from outside of the United States. I just didn't expect such an international experience in my own country. I heard French and German spoken most often. And in the three days, I found not one scrap of trash on any trail; these were people who respected this land. For a guy from a big city in the flat, flat, flat Midwest, this was extraordinary scenery.
As I climbed and hiked, I thought about a book I am editing for the children's catechumenate. The author has a chapter on discovering God's presence. I thought about that chapter a lot as I spent these days in these beautiful places. And I remembered a young man, a catechumen in a previous parish, who was a doctoral student in nuclear physics. He had come to the conclusion, after years of studying the physical world, that there was some thing, or some force, or some one who was responsible for holding all of this together. He discovered God in nuclear physics and came to know Jesus Christ. When I pondered the fact that there are billions of galaxies in the universe, each containing billions of stars, even the vastness and grandeur of these spaces in Utah seemed so insignificant. Yet, this is the world in which I am planted right here and right now. It was a challenge to my faith and an affirmation of it, all at the same time. Certainly not what I expected, but I was happy to let my spirit, soul, and mind engage in the conversation.
Thanks for listening to Part One of the convergence.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.