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Step back and enjoy the view

First slide

It is a goal of mine to hike the entire section of the Appalachian Trail that passes through Virginia, the state that contains more miles of the trail than any other state. I recently invited a couple of priests and seminarians to accompany me toward fulfilling this goal by backpacking for three days and knocking out another 40 miles. On our last night, after a long and hard day of walking, we stopped to set up camp. With our heavy packs off, we went to watch the sunset from a nearby overlook. From this vantage, we could look back on all the miles we had trekked — each summit and valley, each mile of hard work. The laborious steps stretched behind us, wrapped in a new mantle of beauty as the sun set, shedding new light on our journey.


Only then, after days of walking, was I able to fully appreciate the value of our activity. This moment, looking back on our progress, made all the planning and preparation that went into getting us together for this trip worth it for me. I find that God works in a similar way in my spiritual life. Oftentimes, he doesn’t reveal how each mountain, valley, burden or rest in my spiritual journey fits into his plan until enough steps have passed for him to show me where we have gone together.


This insight comforted me on a deeper level as we hiked. Something burdensome, other than my backpack, also lay heavy on my heart. Three days before departing, my uncle passed away from COVID-19 complications at age 62. Knowing that a public funeral would not be possible at this time, I decided to go through with the backpacking trip and use it to process some of the grief and offer up prayers for my uncle. Hiking with priests was a new experience for me and meant that I could have a Mass offered for him during our hard journey, knowing it would make his journey to heaven go a bit easier.


I still haven’t reached the overlook where I can look back and make sense of my uncle’s death or the pandemic in general. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that in God’s time on my journey of faith, I will be able to look back and see the beauty of his plan despite the challenging steps along the way.


Banach, who is from St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, is entering his second year of pre-theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020