SOLVED BY WALKING
On the woodsy grounds of Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Ma, there is a small slate sign on the pathway etched with the words: SOLVITUR AMBULANDO
(it is solved by walking). It is a Latin phrase often attributed to St. Augustine. He suggested that issues of the heart, soul, and mind are best “solved by walking.” This seems to be confirmed by the story we enter today.
In Luke’s Gospel, we meet Jesus on that very first day of the week: three days after the crucifixion. And Jesus isn’t heading toward Galilee, where he told the other disciples to meet him. Instead, he is walking to a town about 7 miles away from Jerusalem. Time and again we are reminded that Jesus “meets people where they are.” So perhaps he had to go this route to encounter those two disciples.
As he was walking, he “drew near” and “walked with them”.
Who were these disciples? I imagine them as a couple. Cleopas is named, and I agree with many biblical scholars that it must be Mary, his wife. Remember “Mary, wife of Cleopas” in John’s Gospel, who stood at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ Mother and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25)? That one.
Their grief and despair were so deep that they did not recognize Jesus, nor did they recognize his voice. Whatever they were debating, both were surprised that the stranger seemed clueless about the events of the past days in Jerusalem. Downcast though they were, they sure were in for a big surprise!
Just imagine, Jesus could have said, “Hey, look at me! I’m not dead!”
Instead, Jesus simply called them “slow of heart” and then broke open the Scriptures that prophesied about him. And as evening fell, the disciples invited him to stay with them. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t been so hospitable?
It is a good reminder that when we welcome the stranger we can encounter the Lord Himself! Recognizing Him in the breaking of the bread, we, like the two disciples, are sent out to spread the Good News.
Pope Francis calls the road to Emmaus a symbol of our path of faith: It highlights the significance of Scriptures and Eucharist as vital parts of our relationship with the Lord and one another. Luke’s account models the way we journey on that path, and Jesus, seen or unseen, is always with us. This Emmaus way of being church is synodality. And it is as ancient as the early Christian community itself.
Does this sound familiar? In the cartoon “Francis, the comic strip” drawn by Pat Marrin there is a picture of a man asking, “What’s all this about being a synodal Church?” to which Pope Francis responds, “Let’s Walk together, tell our stories, listen to the Holy Spirit.”
Pope Francis calls us to be a synodal church, the People of God, pilgrims on our journey to the heavenly Jerusalem.
What does it mean to be a pilgrim?
The Camino de Santiago is a popular pilgrimage today. An ancient 500 mile walk from the French Pyrenees across northern Spain, it is one of many routes walked by thousands of pilgrims since the Middle Ages. It ends at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, where it is believed that Saint James is buried.
All you really need is a backpack, walking sticks and sturdy shoes. Pilgrim meals and beds are provided in small villages along the remnants of the old Roman road. People from all over the world walk parts, or all, of the Camino every year. Most of all, a pilgrimage offers time to think, time to listen, time to pray and time to tell stories.
When Jesus encountered the disciples, he asked them what they were discussing. It is not uncommon for a stranger to ask, “Why are you walking?” Even without knowing the vocabulary, the language on the Camino is one of community and friendship. There is a sense of camaraderie and a desire to help others along the way. No one “passes by on the other side” if there is an injury or the need for a “blister fix”.
There is unity in diversity: Synodality all the way to Santiago!
And as we approach, everyone rushes to be in time for the Pilgrim Mass. All are welcome in the Cathedral and after Communion, everyone gasps as the Botafumeiro, the 100 pound censor, swings and swooshes high across the transept. Our hearts burn within us and our prayers of thanksgiving rise with the smoke to heaven.
My friend said it well: “We all realized how much we loved each other, no matter where we were from or what we did with our lives. Ask anyone who has had the opportunity to walk the Camino, and you will find that many go back to do it again.”
Oh, if everybody could walk a Camino together, what a wonderful world it would be!
Where are we as Catholics on our pilgrimage, our Emmaus journey?
Just as the two disciples walked away from Jerusalem, a lot of people have walked away from the Church, and most of them are women. Even those of us who deeply love the church have felt discouraged at times.
We live in a time when women’s roles are recognized as equal with men’s in all areas of society. We live in a time when our daughters (and granddaughters) are asking questions like, “What’s so bad about being a girl?” and “Why is it all about the boys?”
The Church claims to support women’s equality. But women lament the lack of opportunity to respond to what is deepest in our hearts: visible signs of influence to better serve the People of God. Signs and symbols are part of the sacramental fabric of the Catholic faith. What are the signs that support the Church’s belief based on Scripture that male and female are created in the image of God? And where do we see the manifestation of Galatians 3:28 where St. Paul proclaims that male and female are one in Christ Jesus?
Many women long to serve the church more fully in their pastoral ministries. One clear indication of this is the heartfelt desire of some who discern a vocational call to the permanent diaconate.
Since the restoration of the permanent diaconate at Vatican II, Scripture scholars and theologians have revealed the tradition of women deacons up to the 12th century. And over the past few years there have been some early signs of change that spark our hope.
One of those signs is St. Phoebe, who has set our hearts ablaze!
Many of us have been unaware of Phoebe for a very good reason: Not only was her September 3rd Feast Day replaced by Pope Gregory’s Memorial in 1969, but she has been hidden from our hearing because St. Paul’s letter to the Romans 16:1-2 has never been proclaimed in any of our Lectionary cycles. Now that we have encountered her, we are encouraged by St. Paul as he calls Phoebe a sister, a benefactor and a deacon. He entrusts her to take a letter to the Romans and asks that she be “received in the Lord in a manner worthy of the holy ones”.
“In a manner worthy of the holy ones!” I believe that as women are lifted up in the Roman Catholic Church, all women everywhere will be valued as worthy and treated with greater dignity and respect. Catholic women are walking away from the Church. And it is a painful reality that many other women are forced to walk away from violence, poverty, war, and injustice. Our hearts break to be able to accompany all women on whatever road they are walking. But our arms can only reach so far. We have to stretch to meet them one step at a time: one encounter at a time, one person listened to, one person welcomed, one person loved into community.
We walk by faith and we know that the Holy Spirit will not deny what the Church needs. Through Phoebe’s intercession, women (and men) are seeking her support as our steps quicken and our hearts burn within us for the renewal and transformation of a church that truly welcomes the gifts of all the baptized.
Saint Phoebe, Walk with us!
Svea Fraser, M.Div
Svea Fraser, M.Div
I grew up on the banks of a river in Glastonbury, Connecticut.
The day after graduation from the University of Connecticut,
I left for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkey.
The fifty-two years since then have been filled by: Marriage to an adventurous husband; Two blessedly wonderful daughters and six grandchildren.
Living around the world in:
Switzerland for one year.
Australia for seven years--where I worked in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne Office for Worship.
Singapore for two years--volunteering in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore Family Life Office.
We lived aboard a 47 foot sailboat for four years.
Initially settling in Wellesley, Massachusetts, we returned home time and again and accomplished the following:
Resettling refugees by forming Friends of Southeast Asian Refugees, Inc. (a 501c3 non-profit organization).
Studies at ANTS (4 years), Hebrew College (2 years for a Meah certificate) and earning an MDiv degree at Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, MA (I am the second and last woman to have done so. Sr. Shirley Nugent, SCN was two years ahead of me. I always say her name).
Four years as the first Catholic woman “Chaplain” at Wellesley College.
One of the Founders in 2002 and a current Trustee of Voice of the Faithful,
Currently leading the “Women’s Emerging Voices” working group which is
now identified as a “National Deacon Circle” partnering with
our friends in Discerning Deacons.
Coordinator/catechist for RCIA (now OCIA) for our
St. John/St. Paul Collaborative (for nearly 20 years).
Walking--hundreds of miles on the Camino de Santiago three times.
Sailing--although I prefer being on land where I am
always happy riding other people’s horses (three times a week).
Thanks be to God!
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