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by the Rev. Mark Connolly

I would like to share a few thoughts with you on a subject that should be considered by all of us especially with the beginning of the New Year. It is summed up in one word, journey. In the language of the spiritual writers of today they call it man's second journey.

Basically the word journey has been appearing in many journals and magazine articles reminding us that each man is on a journey that is divided into three parts. The first journey is that which takes place from the time of adolescence to adulthood. Up until 30 years of age is considered the first journey. During that time just about everything is planned for you. The first journey of life, man is born, his schools are selected for him, he selects that vocation or business, he enters marriage, starts his own business or works for someone else, but fundamentally things are pretty well controlled by others.

The second journey is that which is thrust on him, sometimes he has no choice. Often he does not have any major choice. It is a situation that he has never anticipated. It can be the untimely death of a spouse, an illness that will cause not just pain but havoc in his lifestyle and that of his family. It can be a loneliness that he never anticipated. It happens to just about everyone and causes us to have a new lifestyle or change our way of living. When it happens we get angry or frustrated or feel inadequate and often scared. We feel that no one understands our pain. That is what the second journey is all about. The second journey something is unusually thrust into our lives that we have to personally deal with.

How do we go about this? We must put the pieces of our life back together no matter how difficult it must be. St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, was a soldier in Spain. He was wounded, then while in the hospital he reflected and meditated and found the Society of Jesus, the religious group that we call the Jesuits. Cardinal Newman, the man who did such tremendous work in England for what was called the second spring, the conversion of England, was sent to Greece to die because of a rheumatic condition. He reflected, he recovered and then started the process for the conversion of England. How should the average person thrown into this second journey of life respond?

First, one should respond by developing a sense of acceptance. Again, the serenity prayer. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference between the two." This is a beautiful prayer, not only for serenity purposes, but for the purpose of acceptance. Acceptance of the cross that you have at that moment. To deny what happened, to refuse to accept what has happened only compounds the problem. Acceptance means that you have the realization that God is permitting this to happen to you for a reason you might never hear. In the language of the Gospel, Christ summed it up when he said, "you have to die in order to be reborn." It is not a question of choice, acceptance is a question of survival.

The second quality needed for this journey is a sense of total honesty. To be unreal in any way, to set counterfeit goals, to look for unreal answers leads to a counterfeit decision. When one can say, not my will be done, but yours, God, be done then total honesty is going to help us cope with the problems we encounter on this second journey.

The last quality needed for this journey is a sense of prayer. Prayer gives you insight that your natural talents can never give. Prayer gives one a sense of perspective that can only come from God. Prayer gives a sense of energy to cope with the problems experienced during this second journey. Cardinal Newman once wrote, "the night is dark and I am far from home and amid this encircling gloom lead thou me on."

Prayer enables us to be transformed from hopeless wanderers into guided pilgrims for our second journey. The second journey is one we must all take. It prepares us, naturally, for the third.

From about 30 years of age it starts in most people. No one escapes it. With a sense of acceptance, a sense of honesty, a sense of prayer we are fortified for the second journey. These are the qualities that take us out beyond the earth and the stars, out beyond the planet Mars and into the arms of God.

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