Only nine more sandwiches, and I’ll be back on Canadian soil. This trip has been more than incredible; I have learned so much about myself and about others on this trip, on top of all the academic information that has been thrown at us these past seven weeks.
Lately I have been struggling with the theme of the trip: the community versus the individual, and my previous theme, the sacred versus the secular. Although I have been told not to always try to compare and contrast opposites, these have been the recent things on my mind. I find myself entering a church, a cathedral, a basilica or a chapel, and I immediately feel the presence of God, or the lack thereof. There is either a “thinness” or an absence of thinness of space between myself and God, and it does not have any correlation between the amount of tourists or the amount of historical significance in these places. I will enter a historically important place, with absolutely no one else in the church, and sometimes it will seem very flat, and very without God. Other times, there can be a hundred tourists taking pictures, bumping shoulders with me, but I can strongly feel where God is. What makes a place worshipful, or sacred? It very much has to do with the community surrounding the place. It is not the physical location, but rather the community, that makes a place thin. If a place is not so thin, or not so sacred, it is up to US, the individual, to make it a sacred space, or make it worshipful. It is up to the community to change the significance of a place. Vimy Ridge would just be a hill to a passer by, but there is extreme historical significance there that makes us FEEL the heaviness of war. Flanders Field is just a geographical landscape, but when we think about the tens of thousands that died there – that is what makes it important. Sebastian, an individual before the reformation, could not have published his Ship Of Fools without the help of Gutenberg’s printing press in Strasbourg. That sparked the flame of the reformation in Switzerland. What if the printing press was created somewhere else, such as England? What if Sebastian wrote a book about the positive effects of the Medieval era, and found that secularism was better than encouraging Protestantism? These individuals have shaped our lives, much more than we know.
What do we, as students of St. Stephen’s University, have to do with this transformation of a nation? What if Joel Mason’s publications, or the SSU Prayer Book, ended up in the hands of a very powerful publisher, or on the 6 o’clock news? Could we change the face of North America with our Celtic liturgies, our passion for the preservation of the environment, and our heart and focus on community? Could this become another reformation?
It is up to us to decide. So do we take this challenge? Do we step up, with our crosses and our writings, and create a better world?
These are aspirations almost too zealous for me to actually think about, but it gives me shivers. Discovering where I fit as an individual in a community that is potentially in a very influential position in the 21st century is a huge undertaking. This trip has made me consider these things, pray about these things, and talk about these things, in a way that I never would have expected before coming to Europe with SSU. I hope that this fire doesn’t die away upon my return to Canada, and that we can keep on keeping on, making this world more sacred and more thin with every step we take.