Last week, I did a general confession as part of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius (19th Annotation). It involved reviewing my entire life, calling to mind my persistent sins, and identifying the roots of those sins. By the time I finished, my knees were so numb that when the priest pronounced the words of absolution, I toppled over like Saint Paul falling off of his horse. Fortunately, I recovered easily.
My penance was to pray a Rosary. Rather than spend more time kneeling (ouch), I went to my favorite trail at Lake Norman State Park. I prayed the Luminous Mysteries while I walked through the woods. These mysteries of light seemed especially appropriate upon which to meditate. I felt newly baptized, transfigured upon the mountain, and immersed in the Kingdom of God.
I was reminded of an essay written by Henry David Thoreau called “Walking”. He describes a fascinating origin of the word ‘Sauntering’:
I have met with but one or two persons who understood the art of walking or ‘sauntering’: a word beautifully derived from people who roved about the country in the Middle Ages going ‘a la Sainte Terre’ or ‘to the Holy Land’. The children would exclaim, “There goes a ‘Sainte-Terrer’, a ‘Saunterer’, a ‘Holy-Lander’… This is the secret of successful sauntering. Every walk is a sort of crusade, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels. (Edited. Full text at digitalthoreau.org)
After the confession and absolution, I could relate. I felt like I had reconquered the Holy Land of my soul from the Infidels of sin.
During many retreats at the Catholic Conference Center, people use their breaks to take a walk around the property or on the trails. Each in their way uses the activity to visit and reclaim their own ‘Holy Land’. They become ‘saunter-ers’, or ‘Holy Land-ers’, where the Holy Land is the landscape of their soul.
Even in the dead of Winter, take some time to be a Saunter-er. Take a holy walk around the house or in the woods. Use the time to chase out those infidels and reclaim the Holy Land of your soul.