Ad Astra per Aspera
February 14, 2020
“One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world will be better for this.”
Miguel de Cervantes wrote these words about his hero, Don Quixote, a man who lost his mind and devoted his life entirely to chivalry at a time when living such a life was unheard of. This hero, at times a complete fool, sought to embody perfect virtue, in particular the virtues of courage and fidelity. The characters surrounding Don Quixote continually berate him, often violently, for being such a fool. Yet Don Quixote strove to reach the unreachable stars, and the world was better because he did.
At times throughout the journey in this Holy Land, a Christian can feel like Don Quixote striving for the unreachable stars. When a Christian arrives at a holy site, he tries to be present at that place and pray, but is surrounded by people with their cameras out, taking pictures to document the moment. He is surrounded by people almost casually talking with each other or loud tour guides shouting instructions. It can seem like the life of prayer and true pilgrimage has fallen by the wayside, much like the life of chivalry had disappeared in Don Quixote’s time. It can seem totally countercultural to enter these sites and not take pictures with a cell phone. But perhaps these countercultural actions are the stars the Christian ought to reach for. Perhaps the world will be better for his striving for this true silence.
At times the Christian can be scorned for living this way (look to any of our martyrs). It is true also that the Christian is covered with scars, often the scars of his own sinfulness. But the true Christian strives with the last ounce of his courage to reach That Which is unreachable, our Lord and our God. The scorn of the world and the contempt of the evil one try to dissuade the Christian, but through those difficulties, the Christian perseveres. When that perseverance is genuine, That Which is unreachable comes to the Christian. The white marble altar in Nazareth proclaims “VERBUM CARO HIC FACTUM EST.” The fourteen-pointed star in Bethlehem marks the spot where VERBUM was born. The Christian strives for the Unreachable Star, and through the difficulty of perseverance, the Star comes to the Christian. Ad Astra per Aspera.
Diocese of Wichita