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But as a spiritual journey, it was a profound one that eventually led Debbie to the Catholic faith. We walked into the lower level of St. I can still remember the fragrance of the burning candles and the beautiful statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I never forgot that experience. It always stayed in my heart. It was an entirely new experience for Debbie, who regularly attended services with her godmother at St. Forty years later, she entered into full communion with the Catholic Church at St. Debbie was born in Bridgeport in She attended Shelton School and Central High School, where she was a cheerleader and named the best female athlete in her class.

She had always wanted to become a nurse, but shortly after she began studies at Housatonic Community College, her father was diagnosed with lung cancer in the autumn of , so she dropped out to help care for him until he died a year later. From to , she worked at Bridgeport Hospital as an escort and would transport patients around the hospital. In December , she was voted employee of the month in recognition of the compassionate care she showed the patients, especially seniors.

Although she never went into nursing, she believes her job let her show care and love to many people when they were the most vulnerable. She, her sister and two brothers grew up on the lower north end of Bridgeport.

The Catholic Faith: A Life-Altering Journey

She was baptized in St. Her maternal grandmother was a devout Seventh Day Adventist who made sure her grandchildren went to church regularly. Her mother was a Seventh Day Adventist and her father was a Methodist. A year later, they got married and shortly after she became pregnant and gave birth to her son Ian. Each year as I begin my journey, I use these tools to map out the individual hike I will take.


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Similarly, I know I have the tools of my Catholic faith to guide me along my journey. They are my heavenly GPS, reminding me God above knows my every step and is there to keep me on the narrow road. The waypoints of truth are laid out and the guidelines of faith established so I can calculate carefully my individual journey towards the goal.

Undertaking a fruitful spiritual journey - The Catholic LeaderThe Catholic Leader

In this, I am confident I will always find my way. My favorite parts of the Appalachian Trail are those lovely little paths which meander through the woods beside babbling brooks or still ponds overlooking an idyllic countryside scene. Unfortunately, those are few and far between.

Much of the A. This year I walked in a summer rainstorm, even though I had specifically asked God to spare me from a wet hike. I made sure make the most of the experience, however. I spent time in prayer, meditating on why God allows rain to fall upon our lives and why He seems to lay out difficult paths before us.

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There were no great revelations, but I did find myself in a place of resolve, where I accepted that no experience is ever wasted. There in the wet woods, I was content to wait for future insights to come. Jesus never promised us the road to heaven would be smooth and packed with peaceful moments. He did promise us that He would be with us and share His easy yoke as we traveled along the way.

As I have walked these many years with my Savior, I have learned rain cleanses and renews, rocky climbs strengthen feeble knees, and trials and struggles are often strict schoolmasters, teaching us invaluable lessons about how to live the Christian life. And when the beautiful vistas come, I breathe in their purity and bask in the joy they bring.

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In all this, perhaps what is most important is I have discovered the journey itself is a beautiful blessing, and it is glorious to surrender to the will of the One who has laid it all out before us. One of best parts of my A.


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  • The Journey?

They are the ones who have committed to trek the entire Appalachian Trail from beginning to end. They travel light, know the way, and seem to walk it effortlessly. They speak their own language, are totally sold out to the Trail, and have a strength that allows them to persevere as they travel the long and arduous journey to their final destination. They are the extraordinary saints of the journey compared to my ordinary stumbling self.

Why Be Catholic and Not Just Christian?

Yet, they never judge me for my overweight pack and my slow pace along the trail. They have the dirt of the road on their bodies and the smell of the trail in their nostrils, yet they have an inexplicable joy and a gentle spirit that extends to everyone they meet along the way. They are the giants and I am the one struggling to believe. It is a sobering lesson I learn over and over again with every hike I take. Though each Catholic is certainly a saint, we have been blessed to know there are those who have totally sold out to the journey and who stand as examples for us to follow.

They never seem caught up in the trappings of this world, run the race with a supernatural strength, and speak the language of the angels as they stretch their souls out along the entire journey from this world to the next. They are so connected to their relationship with the One who is leading them home that they shine as models of saintly living. They love with the love of Christ, never judging the ordinary believers weighed down with their woes, but encouraging us with their radiant example of what it means to walk the perfect path toward the mountain of God.

All along the Appalachian Trail, there are wonders I may miss if I am so focused on the next goal that I forget to take pleasure in the journey itself. There are many delights of the hike: the satisfaction of drinking water filtered from a cool and crystal clear stream, the comfort of a hot cup of tea at the end of a long day of hiking, the beautiful works of God displayed in the flora and fauna of the woods, and the majestic views from atop a mountain summit after a rigorous climb.

Undertaking a fruitful spiritual journey

And then there is the trail magic — little gifts of food, water, and tasty treats left by lovers of the A. But when I find myself in a good hiking rhythm I strike a balance between pressing on toward the goal and savoring my experiences along the way. There are so many beautiful miracles along the road of life that Catholics may miss if we are too focused on reaching the next goal of the journey. If we worry too much about getting our fill of sacraments instead of satisfying ourselves with each new experience of them, we may fail to fully grasp the spiritual significance of each sacred sign.

Each day is a mystery which unfolds before us, full of moments to be taken in and treasured in our hearts.

6 Free & Awesome Advent Reflections and Retreats

Jesus calls us to live our life to the fullest, surrendering to the power and potential of each and every day. Next year I am sure I will once again overfill my backpack and venture out onto the Appalachian Trail. Maybe I will explore a new section or maybe I will retrace a previous hike once more. Whatever the case, I know I will allow the journey to stir within me the power and presence of Jesus Christ and bring new meaning to the precious Catholic faith I call my own.