Strength for the Journey

Replica of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Belleville, Illinois – one of my favorite places to pray

By Charlie Johnston

Ten years ago today, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, I took the first step on the 3,200 mile walk that was my great pilgrimage across this land. When I left, I didn’t know much about what I was doing, only that I would do it, figuring I would learn what I needed to along my way.

“Waiting” – an original pencil on cypress drawing an artist in Louisiana did for me

Glory! What an adventure! My night camps were visited by a constant stream of animals, almost all of which oddly treated me as if I belonged there. There were foxes, wolves, bears, cougars, deer, elk, a parade of wild turkeys, a bobcat and an endless procession of chattering squirrels. Many mornings I was awakened by songbirds chirping in the tangle of branches just above my head. About 30 miles north of Birmingham, early on, a little grey bird caught my eye. It hopped into an alcove under some bushes, looked at me, suddenly turned a brilliant, flashing gold, and then vanished. I wondered if I was hallucinating, then chose to

The artist, Curly, a swamp man who did the painting for me. He passed on last year.

believe an angel was subtly offering me a little encouragement. In Ojai, California a three-inch hummingbird hovered about a foot and a half in front of my face, gazing at me for what seemed forever, but was probably two or three minutes. It was amazing, like looking into the face of some alien intelligence. Somewhere near Ft. Morgan, Colorado, near the end of my way, a little faun came bounding up to me in the woods where I had made camp, folded its front legs beneath itself, and just sat with me for a good chunk of my morning.

I got in a fair share of hairy situations. Two men threatened me with knives and one threatened me with a pistol. Yet the most dangerous moment came not from without, but from a bad decision I made. I decided to cross an 80-foot field of boulders rather than take a couple of miles to go around it. I was about 20 feet in when I realized how dangerously unstable it was. Going forward was dangerous, but going backwards would probably be more so. It took me several hours of very deliberate motion, making sure, with each movement, that I wasn’t causing a deadly shift in the rocks, before taking the next movement.

A persistent butterfly in Waco, Texas, landed on my hand and made camp. He refused to leave for the longest time.

I spent little time along my way focusing on my ultimate end of the journey. Rather, I focused on the 12-15 miles I would usually make today. I was always glad to meet somebody and chat along my way – and I met a lot of people, some who remain friends. I discovered there is a great hunger for meaning and simplicity in this country, that most people are of profound good will. People hate to be played, but absolutely hunger to help and chat with their fellows. One morning, I got coffee very early at a little convenience store/café that was otherwise empty. The gal behind the counter was curious as I did not drive up in a car and had a heavy pack on my back, so I told her my story. She was completely charmed. A few minutes later, a fellow a few years older than me came in. He looked at me and my pack at a table, started talking animatedly with the woman behind the counter and then, with a cheery grin, came up and asked if he could sit with me. I was glad of the company. As he sat down he said, “Now before we begin, I have to tell you I’m an atheist.” I chuckled and said, “That’s all right. The way I see it, God reads hearts. If there is good will in your heart, God will correct the errors in your head in His good time. If there is malice in your heart, you can say ‘Jesus’ all you want and maybe fool yourself, but you won’t fool God.” He liked that and chuckled back. We talked for about an hour and a half about everything except God. It was wonderful. Finally, I needed to get up and make a little progress on the day. As we shook hands, he surprised me by telling me wistfully, “You know, if things are like you say, I hope there is a God.” I smiled and said, enthusiastically, “There is – and he’s going to take your kind wishes for me as a prayer.” He smiled and responded, “I’d like that.” And I was on my way. I thought to myself that that was a fine morning of conversation and evangelization as I continued on my way.

Unbeknownst to me, a dear friend had set aside some money to get me back and on my feet when the inevitable crash came and I realized that this was just too hard on an older fellow like me. We were chatting on the phone one morning when I was in Pearl, Mississippi (I had a phone which I would charge at a gas station or restaurant once every day or two while I sat and read). He noted that every time we chatted, I was just as cheery as ever, eager to tell him about the latest little adventure from the trail. He confessed then that he had set aside the money and said, with some surprise, “I think you might make it, Charlie.” I laughed, was profoundly grateful for his practical concern, and assured him that I was going to make it, God willing.

At one point, a fellow who had been a regional coordinator for me in a statewide campaign decided he wanted to do an outsider run for the city council in his medium-sized city…and asked if I could put together a radio campaign for him. I did – and advised him that he probably did not want to tell anyone that his ‘media consultant’ was currently a vagrant who slept in the woods each night. He won.

In Louisiana, I asked a constable for directions. About a mile and a half later, there was a bustling country café and I figured it was a good time for lunch. Inside, there was that constable by himself at a table. He asked me to join him. We chatted and he got very enthused about what I was doing. Caught up in the moment, he asked me at one point, “Where do you sleep at night?” Then he caught himself and said, “Ooo, maybe you better not tell me that.” I laughed and said, “Constable, I’ll tell you this: I don’t violate any ‘No Trespassing’ signs and I don’t climb any fences.” With a look of cheery satisfaction he said, “That’s good enough for me.”

I remember all the hardships, the fears, the times I was at the beginning of real hunger – and how the real thing takes over and dominates you (Go about 36 hours without eating and it becomes a gnawing, hammering, desperate need – not the sedate feeling of not being full we usually mean when we say we are hungry.) What stays with me most is the pure joy of freedom and discovery, the goodness of almost all the people I met, and the hunger for simplicity and meaning, the craving for simple fellowship and joy in the midst of this predatory, artificial culture of false gods we have mounted. I came away with the conviction that when real hard times come, not only will millions rise to the occasion, they will rejoice in the opportunity to work together in forming anew a culture of life, laughter and love.

I stumbled upon a great festival at a Hispanic Church in north Dallas, dedicated to St. Therese. Had to get a picture of us together.

Ten years later, the whole world is nervously preparing for a great journey into the unknown. Some of your fears will come to fruition. But you will be surprised by great joy in the midst of all the trials you undergo – and the depth of real fellowship with the people you help and that you accept help from. My journey was full of unexpected zigs, zags and a few interruptions. I knew from the start my ultimate destination was Mt. Meeker in Colorado, but only had a vague idea of exactly how I was going to get there. I focused on the day before me and put a priority on chatting and visiting with the people I met along my way. I didn’t know for sure how long it was going to take – just that I would keep going until I got there.

People are deeply worried about the trials and vicissitudes ahead. You have good reason to be so. But I tell you, you have the unfathomable joy of renewal and fellowship ahead you. I know. I began my dress rehearsal for these times ten years ago today. It was hard, but it was the most gloriously joyful time of my life, the time that renewed my faith in the simple goodness of most people. Prepare for trial and joy, firmly yoked together as we enter this time of great and complete renewal. Our destination is the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. I don’t know exactly how we are going to get there, just that we are. Relish each step of the journey with the joy and anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve.

*********

The video of my talk in Philadelphia (actually Cherry Hill, NJ – part of the Philadelphia metropolitan area) is now up on the CORAC website. I had just gotten over a cold, so I am a bit annoyed at how often I was sniffling. I was not as focused as I would have liked to have been, but I was deeply heartened by the seriousness and the generosity of spirit of this group of volunteers during the Q and A portion. We have a good group of people gearing up.

Donate to CORAC!

338 thoughts on “Strength for the Journey

  1. JESUS = GOOD NEWS .. . 😉

    http://blog.newadvent.org/2021/02/if-you-dont-know-hillbilly-thomists-one.html

    https://spiritdaily.org/blog/news/from-fulton-sheen-fearing-change-and-hating-goodness

    https://amgreatness.com/2021/02/14/the-new-york-times-retracts-the-sicknick-story/
    …… and we STILL don’t have the name of the Capitol Cop who gunned down the unarmed Lady AF Vet. The only person, it seems, who died from attack by a deadly weapon. You can be assured that the info will probably never come out as it will NOT reinforce the Phony Insurrection Message or advance The Evil Agenda!

    Of Course, The PuppetPrez & CNN want “Commonsense” Gun Control just like they applaud “Commonsense” Speech Control.
    History tells US that Tyrants can not abide an armed citizenry nor a citizenry that can meet & speak freely. …. or Faith in Anything besides BigBro Gubermint.
    Weaponized China Plague Shutdowns, Big Tech/Media/Academic/Gubermint Censorship, Gun Control and a National “Security Force” to replace those Racist Local Police … Oh!! .. & turn Middle Class into Welfare Class… & Equity for ALL……….
    It’s EVIL, It’s In Your Face and it be Happenin’ Now!
    https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/14/politics/biden-parkland-anniversary-gun-reform/index.html

    The Very Good News is there is a revival movement going on in our USA that THEY, despite China Plague, Big Tech Censors & Media/Democrat Derision can’t stop:
    Jonathan Cahn’s Prophetic Message to Joe Biden

    …. & a Priest’s Sermon that was ” broadcast” to Reg. 8 Gang.

    Kurt doesn’t mention any Faith Angle but I believe a very similar article could be written about Good-Guys rising and taking back The Church …. soon?
    https://townhall.com/columnists/kurtschlichter/2021/02/15/the-cons-are-alright-n2584701

    Pastor Coverstone today:

    Info Overload Day:
    https://www.americanthinker.com/
    https://thefederalist.com/
    https://amgreatness.com/
    https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/

    GOD SAVE THE REPUBLIC & ALL HERE!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. True, Linda! We here in the Memphis area are experiencing a crazy couple weeks of weather. The low tonight is 0°! We had ice last week and a snow storm today. Another expected Wednesday and Thursday. I actually love it and it sure is unusual here.

      Liked by 3 people

          1. LOL Kim! I’m guessing it doesn’t usually snow in your Southland? There are years when we get very little snow in southern NE. Then there are other years when the roofs collapse because it’s snowmaggedon. The year our youngest was born was a Snowmaggedon year. It forced me to slow way down, ’cause I couldn’t even safely leave the house!

            Liked by 2 people

            1. LL– this is unusual weather for us for sure. I’ve lived in a lot of snowy places though—Akron, St. Louis, Olney, MD— so driving in it doesn’t frighten me.

              Liked by 3 people

                  1. As a kid, my family used to go there every summer to visit my grand parents.  My grandad built Oak Knolls golf course in Kent.—- Sent from Doug’s Back Pack

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Oh that’s cool.  It shut down about 4 years ago.  Golfing is not as popular as it used to be.  I used to golf there as a kid when we traveled to Ohio every summer to visit my grandparents.  I always loved getting a tall chocolate milk shake and a hamburger at the club house.  My Dad said my grandmother was a stickler for high quality and always got the best beef for the burgers there.  They sold the course and retired in the 1970s.  Weird part is he did not build the course until he was in his 60s.  He had a partner of which he eventually bought out.  My grandad was a joyful man.  I was in high-school when he died.  I did not grow up in any church.  At his funeral, I was standing alone to the side in a dark spot in the funeral home and very distinctly heard his voice.  He said, “Hi Doug” and I got this overwhelming feeling he was happy to see me there.  This made a huge impression on me and I never told anyone of this until recently.—- Sent from Doug’s Back Pack

                      Liked by 2 people

    1. St. Joseph is amazing! I have to tell all of you what he is doing for my husband, as soon as I have time to write it down. (Regarding the cancer battle.) Again, for all of you, what Father Z said is to ask St. Joseph SPECIFICALLY. I asked for something to be done by tomorrow and it looks like it will happen!

      Liked by 6 people

    1. Thank you for sharing BOBG, there is a lot of wisdom in this apostolic letter by Pope Francis.

      What I liked most is:
      >>>”The evil one makes us see and condemn our frailty, whereas the Spirit brings it to light with tender love.”
      >>>”Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice.”
      >>>”We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. Our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground.”

      This I also like ( however it contradicts what Pope Francis said before about those “selfish” people who oppose lockdowns ):
      >>>”A family without work is particularly vulnerable to difficulties, tensions, estrangement and even break-up. How can we speak of human dignity without working to ensure that everyone is able to earn a decent living?”

      Also, I wish Pope Francis would elaborate on this statement:
      “Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception, … ”
      (Had Joseph accepted Herod and welcomed him as he was, would that have ended well for Baby Jesus or made Joseph believe what he was told in the dream?)

      I also do not think the shepherds represented the people of Israel and the Magi represented the pagan peoples. Shepherds and Magi rather represented the people of good will, they represented respectively straight folks and honest intellectuals who were humble enough to acknowledge God. The last sentence is equally valid in the present tense.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. JESUS = GOOD NEWS .. . 😉

    https://blog.adw.org/2021/02/on-presidents-day-we-should-remember-that-washington-and-lincoln-often-called-us-to-prayer-2/

    https://amgreatness.com/2021/02/14/the-wages-of-trump-hatred/

    I just started re-reading “1984”….. been near 50 years since last read. Our USA has gone Downhill Big between times.
    We have gone from …. That could never happen here ’cause …. to …. It’s Happening’ Now …… ALL the Sacred Safeguards of Yore are evaporating ;-(
    https://www.breitbart.com/clips/2021/02/15/dem-rep-jacobs-truth-commission-needed-on-racial-injustice-to-establish-a-common-narrative/

    https://policetribune.com/oregon-lawmakers-consider-bills-to-block-police-from-declaring-unlawful-assemblies-have-cops-pass-racism-test/?

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/feb/15/woke-teachers-want-shakespeare-cut-curriculum-abou/?

    https://spectator.org/biden-lgbt-rights-religious-freedom/

    https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/02/15/rabbis-ilhan-omars-promotion-shows-anti-semitism-now-accepted-in-congress/

    https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2021/02/15/lee-smith-nails-it-the-elites-want-us-to-know-they-hold-all-power-and-control/

    https://citizenfreepress.com/breaking/tucker-carlson-fantastic-opening-statement/

    Where is AlGore? We could use some of his “Hot Air” !??
    https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN2AF066

    https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/02/15/chamber-of-commerce-cheers-new-china-backed-head-of-world-trade-organization/

    https://www.crisismagazine.com/
    https://stream.org/category/us/
    http://www.frontpagemag.com/

    GOD SAVE THE REPUBLIC & ALL HERE!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Tomorrow, we begin Lent.

    “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3)

    “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)

    “Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.” (Our Lady of Akita to Sr. Agnes on October 13, 1973)

    Liked by 7 people

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