Why prayer comes easy to a backpacker on a hike

Why prayer comes easy to a backpacker on a hike


When the 13th editor in main of The us, Andrew Christiansen, S.J., died last 7 days at the age of 77, he was remembered by his previous coworkers and lifelong colleagues alike as a consummate scholar and trainer, as well as a skilled writer who could make complex troubles in ethical theology or international coverage accessible to a extra mainstream viewers. We at The usaalso try to remember him as a form and caring boss, anyone who took the helm at a tough time in our historical past and guided the magazine by way of turbulent waters.

Christiansen was rightly recognized as an insightful ethical theologian and was frequently sought out for his abilities on international plan difficulties and the Middle East. Nonetheless, as James Martin, S.J., mentioned in a tribute in The united states, “Drew’s vast expertise was worn flippantly,” and his tranquil demeanor could be deceptive. “At additional than just one editorial conference, the subject matter would transform to questions of just war,” Martin remembered. “The relaxation of the editors would chat a bit and then Drew would open up his mouth, and out would pour a stream of know-how, expertly guiding us by some history, some Vatican files, some own conversations he had experienced with participants.”

Drew Christiansen, S.J.: “The times have been lengthening. Daylight itself seemed brighter. The sap was growing in the trees, and with it I felt the wanderlust soaring in me.”

Yet another aspect of Drew’s identity that did not get as much attention in previous week’s many tributes was his appreciate for nature and for climbing in the wilderness. Drew wrote on a broad range of topics for America, but I think his greatest writing—his most evocative and elegant—was observed in his occasional reflections for the magazine on acquiring God in character, even if that “nature” was just a stroll as a result of Central Park or a hike in the Catskills.

The opening lines of his 2004 protect story for America, “Into the Significant Region,” study like a cross amongst Tolstoy and Jack London: “The days had been lengthening. Daylight itself seemed brighter. The sap was rising in the trees, and with it I felt the wanderlust increasing in me.”

As a reader, you’re all in for what comes next—but it is not what you could possibly anticipate: a thoughtful essay on why prayer arrives effortless to the backpacker. Christiansen mirrored on his ordeals of executing a annually wilderness retreat with friends and colleagues at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., usually mountaineering up into the Significant Sierras, and how fruitful it was for his prayer lifestyle.

Even though God’s grace is usually there, even in steamy city climes, no retreat property or monastery can assess. Why does the wilderness retreat work so well? More than the yrs I have speculated that the workout, the sparse diet program (typically freeze-dried foodstuff), the fresh air and sunshine, and the solitude all totally free up the creativity for prayer.

The wilderness delivers other special encounters as well, he added, including in his case a prolonged afternoon in communion with a doe and her two playful fawns. “William Faulkner understood of what he wrote in his novella The Bear, in which an previous Indian manual tells the young Ike McCaslin that to see the famous bear Aged Ben, he must go away driving his rifle and compass and wander into the deepest part of the forest,” Christiansen wrote. “In a contemplative temper, with no weapons and in no hurry to shift on, the wilderness retreatant acquires a unique familiarity with God’s creatures. For others they are legends for us they are annual encounters.”

Drew Christiansen, S.J.: “The wilderness retreatant acquires a unique familiarity with God’s creatures. For others they are legends for us they are once-a-year encounters.”

Christiansen located himself fairly widowed from the wilderness when he returned to New York Town in 2002 immediately after 30 yrs away. “Used to sunshine and skyscapes, I found that even on a sunny working day my skyward see from The united states Property was blocked by higher-rises,” he wrote in 2003. “Lights burn up in my place by working day as effectively as by evening.” (It is genuine: The sunlight rises at 10 a.m. in the canyons of midtown and sets at 3 p.m.)

He identified a respite in the heart of the metropolis. “A tree-hugging, backpacking ecophile, I longed for daylight the way wanderers in the desert very long for water. The good news is for me Central Park is only a few blocks away,” he wrote. “The park has turn into for me, as for so numerous, a haven in which I can breathe the light, odor the earth and listen to birdsong. For workplace workers, I uncovered, it is these a sanctuary that at lunch hour most communicate in hushed tones.”

“When I lived in California and wandered the Bay Spot hills and the Sierra high state, I utilised to really feel enormous gratitude for those who, like John Muir, had the foresight to preserve regional parks, like Mt. Tamalpais, and the fantastic national parks, like Yosemite,” Christiansen wrote. “In Central Park, gratitude sweeps over me for Frederick Law Olmsted, his colleagues and supporters. Olmsted, 19th-century America’s pre-eminent landscape architect, was for 20 yrs the principal power in making Central Park.”

It is in these and other mother nature pieces that Drew’s individual voice will come by means of most evidently, in which the joy and marvel existing in his coronary heart is communicated most clearly on the site. And Drew’s concluding line of “Into the Superior Country” most likely features the best coda to his peripatetic daily life, just one properly-lived: “As I savor reminiscences of the previous wilderness retreats, my wanderlust delivers a foretaste of graces but to appear.”


In this house every single 7 days, America options critiques of and literary commentary on 1 individual author or team of writers (each new and previous our archives span additional than a century), as very well as poetry and other offerings from The usa Media. We hope this will give us a probability to supply you a lot more in-depth coverage of our literary offerings. It also lets us to notify electronic subscribers to some of our on line articles that doesn’t make it into our newsletters.

Other Catholic E book Club columns:

Conversing reality and lies with the Norwegian novelist who won the Nobel Prize

Myles Connolly has a query: Why are Catholic writers so tedious?

Leonard Feeney, The us’s only excommunicated literary editor (to day)

Joan Didion: A chronicler of modern day life’s horrors and consolations

Joyful looking through!

James T. Keane


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