I am no stranger to traveling. Planes, trains, boats, buses, or cars took me to many parts of the globe. My family, both growing up and after my marriage, moved several dozen times. During a certain move, I rode in a bus for days, with all my possessions in just two suitcases, not counting the guitar, of course. Another move was similar, except on airplanes. On one of those flights, I was the only passenger. I have even been halfway around the world, as I spent one summer studying and adventuring in Europe.
Still, this was the longest ride of my life. It seemed that the road hardly passed beneath the tires. Although it was a mere 40 miles away from Anderson, in the previous five years we made the trip to Joplin only a handful of times. Little did Honnah and I know how familiar this stretch of road would become.
We had no idea what was coming next. Only one way presented itself to cope with the endless journey. We fell back on the habits of faith and prayer that we developed through our family’s life. I don’t even want to imagine what torture it might be without some sort of belief that good can come from whatever happens in one’s life.
Our habits played out along that interminable leg. Honnah and I found ourselves relying on an old friend. We prayed the Rosary.
Far from being empty repetition, the prayers accompany meditations on events in Jesus’ life and how those events relate to our own life’s journey. Repeating the well known prayers – taken from the Bible – provided background music to wide ranging thoughts, bringing a sense of grounding and calming our frazzled nerves. Heartily entering into the meditations bears much fruit, bringing comfort for the situations in which we find ourselves.
We know that our God is no stranger to the trials and tribulations with which we find ourselves confronted. Further consolation comes from seeing these events through the eyes of the one who loved Jesus the most – his mother. We remember that another famliy suffered trials and tragedy through what happened to her Son. Mary provides for us a model of faith and an empathetic ally through our difficulties. We realize that even those closest to Christ on earth were not spared pain and sorrow for which they could see no rhyme or reason. They met these events with faith and humility, allowing God’s power to shine through for the benefit of all mankind.
The first five meditations, called the Joyful Mysteries, re-tell the incidents in Jesus’ early life that we find in the Bible, mostly in the Gospel of Luke. While each was indeed an occasion of joy, they were fraught with difficult circumstances as well. This line of thinking helped us to recall God’s merciful intervention in Arif’s younger days.
Following these, we enter into the Sorrowful Mysteries. The stories span all four Gospels, informing us of the Lord’s Passion and death. We are reminded of His redemptive Love for each of us. Beyond that, we can join our suffering with His, to know that there is a higher purpose for even the most tragic of circumstances.
Finally, we meditate on the glorious Mysteries, found in the Gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Book of Revelation. These mysteries give us hope that this world of woe is not all there is. God has a plan for each of us and for the world. His deepest desire is that we spend all of eternity with Him in unending joy. In the end, His victory over all evil and tragedy is assured. Our part in it is to grow closer to Him each day: to know Him and see His hand in all that happens and all that is around us; to love Him with all our hearts, minds, and strength, knowing that He will not allow anything to happen to us that is not for our greater good and to trust that He will not give us more than we can handle with His grace; to serve Him and to offer all that we think, say, and do for the good of our souls and of those around us.
Our meditations on these mysteries ranged far and wide. It is amazing how many thoughts crowded into the space of each decade – each cycle of prayers.