Happy Friday! Let me start off by saying that it has been awhile since I’ve updated you and I am sorry. It’s been a busy past few weeks.
This moment I am once again enjoying the hospitality of The Yellow Deli aka The 12 Tribes. In addition to their hiker hostel in Rutland, VT they also have one in Lancaster, NH right outside of the Presidential Mountain range. That’s right, I’m in New Hampshire and tomorrow will be conquering Mount Washington! At mile 1,843.7 I am more than half way done with New Hampshire and have only 345 miles to go before I reach the ever elusive Mt. Katahdin!
The title of this post is beauty because that’s what I’ve been experiencing profoundly and abundantly these past three weeks. (As well as my whole trip) I kept thinking about what I wanted to write regarding beauty but then decided that beauty is better experienced then understood. So, through images I will try to give you a glimpse of the beauty I have been faced with. I will only say these two quotes that I think of often while climbing these mountains.
1. “Late have I loved You, Beauty so ancient, so New.” – St. Augustine
2. “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.” – Sean O’Connell in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.’
Apply these phrases as you will to these pictures:
From VT: (not so much these, though still down right purdy.)
Also, I was blessed enough to spend time with my family on vacation in Nags Head, NC. Here’s are couple pics:
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. Please keep praying and let me know if there’s anything I can offer up for you.
It has been 143 days since I started this trek on Springer Mountain. I am now a mile marker 1,700 only 46 miles away from finishing Vermont. Thank you God! It is only in Him and with Him that I have done what I have done, though there is still more to do. I only have 488 miles left. Keep on prayin’!
As I write this I’m staying at the Yellow Deli & Hiker Hostel in Rutland, VT. This is a by donation Hostel and eatery run by a sort of Neo-Christian/Biblical community called the 12 tribes. They have communities all over the globe and live lives of complete generosity and shared community. If any of you know me you know I love discussing Philosophy, Theology, religion, etc… so, needless to say there have been many hours I’ve spent here discussing with the members their doctrines and where we are alike/different. A bit of discourse is never bad. All differences asides, these are some of the most generous people I have ever met.
Recently I’ve been listen to the Audiobook version of Walden by Henery David Thoreau which simply in itself mixes so well with what I’ve been experiencing out here but also is deepened by literally walking through New England, where Thoreau lived and divined much of the content for his writing. It was also a special experience to be taking all this in while the world remembered him on what would’ve been his 200th birthday. (July 12)
While there’s much I do not agree with Thoreau on I have found a theme in his writings as with other outdoorsy/adventury/man’s men (people like Ernest Hemingway or Teddy Roosevelt for example) that I do largely agree with or at the very least, see the value in emphasizing. In Chapter 2 of Walden, Thoreau writes: “Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights.” How much of our lives is spent trying to escape reality? We try every possible way to escape the inevitable truths of life. Pain, accountability, responsibility, duty, sacrifice, simplicity will always catch up with us, it is foolishness to wish them away. What these men found and put into practice is that it is not enough to simply stop running from reality but to actually run towards it, with open arms and/or clenched fists and to take whatever life had to offer with bravery and purpose. Roosevelt has countless quotes and personal testiments that echo these rough but all too true ideas. He once said: “A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage… For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.” Hemmingway once said: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” These men are calling us to be people of and in the Arena. To face life and the fullness of reality with our whole selves to become the best-version-of-ourselves.
Here’s some pictures:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Thank you all! Keep praying and living that Strenous Life!
“At break of day, when you are reluctant to get up, have this thought ready to mind: ‘I am getting up to do man’s work. Do I still resent this it, if I am going out to do what I was born for, the purpose which I was brought into the world? Or was I created to wrap myself in blankets and keep warm? But this is more pleasant.’ Were you born for pleasure – all for feeling, not for action? Can you not see plants, birds, ants, spiders, bees all doing their own work, each helping in their own way to order the world? And then you do not hurry to the demands of your own nature. ‘But ones needs rest too.’ One does indeed: I agree. But nature sets limits of this too, just as too, just as it has to eating and drinking, and yet you go beyond these limits, beyond what you need. Not your actions, though, not any longer: here you stay below your capability.”- Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Happy Independance Day! The birth of this great and exceptional nation. What a beautiful and grace-filled two weeks it has been!
The journey thus far:
Today I hit mile marker 1,512.6. That means I only have 676 miles to go! I just recently left Bearded Woods Hostel near Salisbury, Connecticut and now I’m in Massachusetts! That means 10 states down and only 4 to go! The most challenging trail is yet to come in NH and ME but I am beyond excited for it. The trail even in New York and Connecticut has been getting tougher and rougher and as I move along it will only get more so. Some days it’s been a wee bit disheartening because I can’t do the mileage I’ve become used to in the middle States. Dealing with these longer/tougher days and struggling with discipline and my spiritual life/it really hitting me that I’ve been out here for more than 4 months has givien me the modivation to recalibrate myself and “shed my skin” so to speak.
I’ve been thinking/praying about discipline often. We need it, we should cultivate it, but too often we like to go without it. I love the way that opening quote illustrates that discipline and living a life of action is necessary to bring the purpose of our lives to full fruition.
“Without discipline, we are confined to soulless living and must content ourselves with work, food, momentary pleasures, and anything that can help distract us from the misery of purposeless living. Without discipline, the soul dies. Slowly perhaps, but surely.” (Matthew Kelly in Rediscovering Catholicism, Page 81) I can’t remember if I shared this quote already but it’s something we need to hear over and over again. Without discipline in every aspect of our lives we are confined to soulless living. That’s a message I’ve been reminded of many, many times this week. Please join me in striving to be more disciplined in following God and His commands to us.
In the middle of New York there is the headquarters of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonment. Their facility is a short walk from the trail so they let hikers come and camp out in their recreation field. It has restrooms, outlets, and an outdoor shower. I was so thankful to be there, the campus is beautiful.
Also my sister Meredith came up and hiked with me a bit:
I also got the chance to go into New York City. The trail literally walks right by a stop on the tracks that go into the city:
I am now 1,335 miles into my trek! I have conquered 7 states!!! I just recently finished Pennsylvania aka Rocksylvania, went into New Jersey and am now finishing it up. New York up next!
Here are a couple photos that capture Rocks:
That’s all I can show, anything more will trigger my PTSD… just kidding! The rocks weren’t much! I was fortunate to escape them without injury. I can’t say the same for my shoes though:
As the days continue to fly by and I get closer and closer to my destination I find myself being more and more thankful for the little things. For the past week or so I’ve been hiking with a sort of Tramily and it’s been awesome! There are some really cool people out here and it’s always great to be able to share in the day to day joys and sufferings with others:
This past Sunday was Corpus Christi, the feast of Jesus’ Body and Blood. Many of my experiences these past two weeks have made me think about Christ’s Body in relation to us. We are the body of Christ. Together, all of us make up his Body here on earth. We work together: one body with many parts, and we are to be Christ’s Hands and Feet: physically living out His commands. Another thought that I had and often have came during the consecration. When Jesus/the priest in the person of Christ say: This is my Body, given up for you (paraphrasing here) obviously that is Jesus saying it is literally His Body given up for us to consume and be in full communion with Him but also I take it as a motto to follow in our everyday lives. We are Christians. That means we try to, as closely as we can, immitate Christ. I feel like everyday we should be saying back to Him: This is MY body given up TO You. In the way we eat, the way we take care of our bodies, when we are tempted with impurity, in the way we dress, when hardship on the body is necessary or imminent ALWAYS we should be saying: Christ, here is my body, I give it to you. **THIS IS SO HARD, For myself especially. But we are called to do hard things. Being a Christian ain’t no walk in the park. Jesus tells us to repent and believe in the good news. Let’s start living it!
This app won’t let me caption any of these but you know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words. Thank you all for your continued prayers and support! A special shout out to Fr. Jack and the Pilgrims in Italy walking 100 miles for you, me, and religious freedom. They sent a video to me, from Italy, with songs, prayers, and encouragement. It gives me such hope and joy to be walking and praying in solidarity with people like these. Thanks y’all, you’re awesome! (You can check the vid out on my FB page if that floats yo boat)
It has been 99 days since I began my trek. As of now I’m 1,146 miles in. That’s more than half way! I’m currently kicking it at the legendary Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA. 6 states down 8 to go! It’s been a bit since I’ve posted. These past three weeks have been filled with so much grace.
Where we last left off was in Harpers Ferry, WV. That Monday I got back on I was accompanied by a train of hikers. My mom, grandma, little siblings, Mrs. Johnson and her younger kids, and my friend TJ all hiked with me for about 5 miles through Harpers Ferry. From there TJ hiked the entire Maryland section. Along the line we were also joined by two of my very good friends Brandon and Sam. Fr. Jack Lombardi also joined in for a few miles. What a blessing it was to hike with some of the best people I have the pleasure to know. After we finished MD and stepped into PA I was fortunate enough to go to Ocean City, MD with my brothers and some friends. A welcome recharge before tackling the second half of the trail.
Getting back on the trail I still wasn’t done with seeing friends. My brother Peter hiked with me for one day. As I walked into Boiling Springs, PA I was greeted by the Tayler Howie and her family who were gracious enough to feed, house, and take me to confession. Not too far after I was able to spend time with Cat Imholte, her fiancé Peter, and the Imholte family. They too fed me, sheltered me, and took me to Mass. Miles after that I was picked up by the Duiduch family in their big, black, 15 passenger van. I stayed at their house for a couple days where I enjoyed the company of a loving, faith-filled, generous, and hilarious family. Also, I’m certain I saw Bigfoot somewhere on their property. Here in Duncannon I am meeting Mr. and Mrs. Harper who are kind enough to drive up here and treat me to dinner.
It is times like these where it is made unmistakably apperent how blessed I am to be supported by the community I have. My family, especially my Mom and Pop, are one the greatest gifts God has given me. Unending Faith, Love, and support flow from them. I love you all, thank you for all you do!
Thank you so, so, so much to everyone who took time out of their lives to lend support to me. YOU are the Body of Christ furthering His Gospel of unconditional Love.
I admit, for me, being served (especially this frequently and fervently) can be at times uncomfortable. It’s a humbling experience when someone gives to you without measure and there’s really no way for you to pay it back. I think in these moments I catch myself believing that I am the last on a list of people who deserve a community like this. I feel inaiquate of unconditional love.
There’s a song by the band “Relient K” called “Be My Escape” in which a line goes: “the beauty of grace is that it makes life NOT fair.” We could argue all day about what people deserve or don’t deserve but when it comes down to it, grace: God’s free gift to us, does not discriminate. The beauty of Love and Mercy is that it makes life not fair. We love all because Christ loved all. Everything is Grace! (Also a great song by Matt Maher)
So even though I don’t deserve wonderful friends like you, guess what? Life isn’t fair! I’m so glad that life isn’t fair! Thank you all! I have less than halfway to go and can now begin counting DOWN the miles. Keep on praying!
I have hiked 1,022 miles!!!! Thank you, God! I left off at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia! 4 states down 10 to go! What a blessing these days have been.
This past weekend I came home to good, old Frederick, Maryland. My dad picked me up outside Front Royal, VA and I was able to watch my little siblings perform in a theatrical version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I give it 10 out of 10 stars. I was also able to be home for Mother’s Day!
The weekend before last I was able to see my Aunt and Second Cousins right before I entered Shenandoah National Park. So many blessings!
I’m taking this next portion of the trail pretty easy. I’ll be hiking with friends and family and coming home on the weekends. Almost to the half way point!!!
Over these past weeks things have been very challenging and confusing. I often feel plagued by doubts and desires for a change of scene. This trek is not easy. While home I was able to clear my mind and heart and renew my hope. I was reminded that we are not made for comfort but for greatness. It should be a discipline in everyone’s life to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’m still working on that. The title of this post is: “Verso L’alto” which means “to the heights.” I have a small Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati holy card that has this picture on it:
Verso L’alto was one of Blessed Pier’s mottos. He was someone who was constantly pushing and climbing to the heights, spiritually and physically. He once said “the higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ.” I want to go verso l’alto. I want to hear the voice of Christ.
Also I was able to go off trail and spend some time in Luray Caverns:
I have traveled 727 miles in 63 days and have now been on the trail for more than 2 months! Wow! What a blessing this trip has been. For the past couple days I’ve been laid up in the Daleville, VA Super 8 due to some sickness. I’ll spare you the grizzly details but let’s just say I was up all hours of the night with my face in the toilet. Too much info? Probabaly. But I’m feeling much better and am ready to hit the trail tomorrow. Only 10 days till I get to be home!
This past week and a half have been super challenging, gracefilled, and eye-opening. There’s been a lot of rain, heat, dehydration, doubt, struggle, conquering, prayer, trail magic, near death experiences, and contemplating my current purpose in life. First and foremost I just need to ask for your continued prayers as I continue to listen to the voice of Truth and follow wherever He may lead me. There has been a lot revealed to me in the past couple days and more still pouring out as time rolls on. I just ask for prayers for clarity. Jesus, I trust in You!
In other news, for the past week or two I’ve been reading a book called “Letters and Papers from Prison” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and it’s amazing. Bonhoeffer is one of my favorite authors and you should totally check out his work. For those who don’t know who he was: Bonhoeffer was a German, Lutheran Pastor, and genius theologian who actively fought against Hitler’s rise to power. Long story short he was found out to be involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler and was arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis. The book I’m reading are his last papers and letters written before he was hung for his crimes in 1945. While the book is filled with so much food for thought, raw honesty, and a sobering reality, there is one thought which seems to continually bounce around in my head and heart. Bonhoeffer writes: “Who stands his ground? Only the man whose ultimate criterion is not in his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these things when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and exclusive allegiance to God. The responsible man seeks to make his whole life a response to the question and call of God.” This snippet seems to speak directly from how Bonhoeffer lived his life. God’s Will is everything and the only thing. Sometimes we don’t understand or we get turned around or we think we have a better plan but in the end His Will is all and we are meant to have an intimate relationship with Him and learn to be sensitive and receptive to His every move. I think everyday I’m learning more and more what that means to me personally. We can always cultivate a deeper intimacy with Christ.
And, of course, some pictures:
“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Thank you so much for your constant prayers and support. I am and will always be praying for you!