Sunday, July 04, 2010

Hiking in Ostia Antica and Back to Rome . The Second Journey









The second week of summer course on Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue ended last Friday. We have discussed so far the Vatican II documents of Ecumenism and the Catholic Church's dialogue with various Christian churches and ecclesial communities (Orthodox Churches, Anglican communion, Lutherans, and Pentecostal Movements, etc).
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Yesterday was a free day so I decided to explore Ostia Antica - the ruins of an ancient Roman village at the mouth of the Tiber river. Originally, I was planning to hike there from Rome and take the train coming back. But I woke up late so I took the train going there and hiked back to Rome.
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I reached Ostia Antica just before ten and explored the ancient village for more than two hours barefoot. I found it easy to walk barefoot on the ancient cobblestones and dirt road even as the temperature rose to 32 degrees celsius. I decided to rest by midday and ate the sandwich I brought. It was very quiet, there were very few tourists.
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I was alone by myself and sat under a shade for over an hour meditating and reading a book I brought with me - "The Second Journey" written by Gerald O'Collins, SJ (my professor at the Gregorian University in Rome 17 years ago). He writes about the three journeys that we usually undertake in our life - the first journey (at the morning of our life -from childhood to adulthood), the second journey (at the noontime and afternoon of our life - midlife), the third journey (the evening of our life --old age).
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O'Collins writes that the second journey may be undertaken by those who are 35-40 years old, while some do it later - when they are in their mid-50s or even as late as the 60s. The second journey is primarily an inner journey, but at times it is also accompanied by an outer journey: "It is the inner component which brings about a second journey. The external traveling has only a subordinate function. All the same, the shift from place to place appears to be a steady feature of authentic midlife journeys."
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He further observes that the second journey involves the search for new meanings, fresh values and different goals. Persons on the second journey want more out of life.
O'Collins also writes that "people on second journeys repeatedly betray a deep sense of loneliness. This loneliness should eventually turn into the aloneness of a quiet and integrated self-possession. But before that happens, they will find themselves in Dante's "dark wood."
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According to O'Collins the journey terminates with the arrival of new wisdom of a true adult.
"It is a wisdom of one who has regained equilibrium, stabilized and found fresh purposes and new dreams. It is the wisdom that gives some things up, let somethings die and accept human limitations. It is the wisdom that agrees, 'I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully.' It is the wisdom that has learned through suffering to live with human finitude and admit the inevitability of old age and death."
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O'Collins uses the "pilgrimage" as the metaphor for the second journey. He writes that the second journeys end in two ways.
(1) the pilgrims reach a new place and a fresh commitment
(2) or else they return to their original place and commitment, only to reaffirm them in a new way.
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For O'Collins, prayer is an essential component of this journey: "Those persons whose lives have been consciously touched by God will not readily come to journey's end without prayer. Only that can turn such persons from being mere vagrants into becoming genuine pilgrims. Nothing less than the deep experience of God can ensure that their second journey will lead somewhere in the end. It takes faithful praying to transform incoherent wanderings into a genuine midlife journey."
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I was deeply touched, reading these lines. It seems to describe where I am now. As I make my pilgrimage in Rome, in Lourdes and on the Camino de Santiago, I have become more aware of the second journey that I am undertaking.
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At 2 o'clock in the afternoon, after this period of rest, meditation and spiritual reading, I hiked 30 km back to Rome - along the via Ostiense. I reached our place after eight in the evening.