There is a grand set of stairs in our rectory, connecting my second floor office with the first floor offices. I don’t think I’ve ever taken those stairs one at a time. There is a boulevard called Geary here in San Francisco that connects my parish with the archdiocesan chancery. I don’t think I’ve ever taken more than eight minutes to make that trip on my scooter. There is a computer in my office that often stops to think a few seconds before displaying this or that website. I don’t think I’ve ever not at least mentally tapped my fingers as my computer computes. It’s quite tempting these days to move faster and faster, to push, shove, and complain about delays, and to rush unthinkingly to a very bad place.
What brought this into high relief during my morning prayer was a line from Fr. Jacques Philippe’s precious little book, Search for and Maintaining Peace: “If I am still not able to remain at peace when faced with difficult situations, then it is better that I should strive to keep this peace in the easier situations of everyday life: to quietly and without irritability do my daily chores…to avoid excessive hurry in my gestures and in the way I climb the stairs! The first step on the ladder of sanctity could very well be those of my own apartment.…” The most satisfying penance I every completed, given by my longtime Dominican spiritual director, was to drive back to my old parish staying in the same lane the entire 2 hours. I will never forget the joy of so simple an act of peaceful surrender. I tried to replicate that penance a few weeks ago, but only made it halfway before pulling around what I considered an outrageously slow car in the middle lane. But at least I had an hour of peaceful joy.
Life is short; eternity is long. Life is so short that we can’t afford to rush it. It will be gone before we know it, and I suspect the way we have lived (or not lived) life will determine how we live in eternity.