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The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross

By David G. Duggan
August 23, 2017

I just returned from a pilgrimage of sorts. Though I intersected El Camino de Santiago Compostela, I was not on that sort of pilgrimage, a month-long journey of spiritual discovery marked by sore feet, worn boots and lost pounds.

Rather, this was a pilgrimage to places key to our Western hemisphere's Christian heritage: Lisbon, whence Henry the Navigator sent out Caravelles to explore the coast of Africa and the mid-Atlantic islands; Barcelona, where Ferdinand and Isabella bade Columbus farewell on his way to discover a western route to the Indies; St. Emilion, where an 8th century monk dug a cave in the limestone bedrock and unknowingly found soil conditions for the most valuable vineyards in the world; Tours, where St. Martin, a 4th century Roman soldier, renounced his life and established a monastery, and where four centuries later Charles Martel preserved western Europe for Christianity; and of course Paris, founded by St. Denis, illuminated by generations of scholars, and finally sustained by a cathedral incomparable in size and beauty. Europe may no longer be the Christian continent, but it indisputably planted the flag of Christianity in the Americas.

Along the way there were meals and museums, air bnb's and bistros, wine and beer and even a Starbucks (I don't like European coffee). Yet the overall theme was to find a faith that has withstood two millennia of wars and plagues, crusades and inquisitions, revolutions and reformations. Can Christianity withstand the next onslaught from whatever direction it comes?

Early on in the church, followers of the Way had to decide whether they would salute the emperor or risk death. Some crossed their fingers and begged forgiveness. Others stood fast against any compromise which would bargain our Lord's sacrifice: their pitch-smeared, crucified and ignited bodies lit the way to Rome.

Yet the faith has endured not because of cathedrals and Caravelles, wine and martyrdom, doctrine and discipline, but because it speaks to the lonely heart seeking to find meaning in this life, the world, and the world to come.

Like the continents on which the cathedrals and cloisters central to our faith sit, the culture shifts and bends. Yet if the faith which has sustained both continent and culture through 2,000 years of turmoil remains true to its origins with people seeking to know and serve God, then maybe we can withstand elections and ISIS, Donald or Hillary, global warming and maybe even the Cubs winning the World Series.

David Duggan is a retired attorney. He lives in Chicago.

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