By Ted Furlow
The Cruise Director and I own a travel trailer, and we try to get it out on the road at least once a month. Our trailer is not opulent, but it’s comfortable and more than simply camping, and it has made us a part of the phenomenon of RVing.
Our experiences on the road have been enjoyable and thought provoking, allowing us to meet a cross section of Americana, to share meals together, to work on our sunburns, to rap while sitting in hot tubs, and to enjoyed the comradery of a cocktail—when you are RVing, it’s always five o’clock somewhere. But what Terri and I like best about our experiences on the road is the joy of just talking with strangers. It has been in those unexpected and spontaneous dialogues of common discussions that we had a revelation of how often we get to talk about our faith.
I never realized that we are so obviously Catholic. Maybe it’s our 49 years of marriage, the fact that we say grace before eating, the Loyola High School hoodie that I wear in the evenings, or that when asked what I did in the real world before retirement, my response “worked for the Church” comes with the obvious supposition that you know which one.
It is an identity that has opened a door for us to a wide range of conversations; we have listened to the pain of the divorced, the abandonment of the LGBTQ, the anger of the offended and ignored, and the awkward rationalizations of the “lapsed.” Make no mistake, we have also heard wonderful stories of shared faith, of the common experiences of church, of prayers being answered, of the presence of God in the lives of everyday people, and of the awkward hunger of the separated and alienated for a renewal of their faith. But these discussions are often intense interior reflections, thought provoking in depth, and something for which we weren’t prepared.
We are not super churchy, super Catholic, or trained to evangelize, we are just “everyday people.” We are part of what the Franciscan Richard Rohr calls the “pedestrian and everyday church,” and as such we have chosen to live the experiences of our day-to-day spirituality, and our unity with Jesus’ presence, from within our faith. Our recent experiences have showed us that simply being an everyday witness to that “faithful presence,” is a powerful evangelization to those who struggle to live their faith in the daily grind, and to those whose faith has faltered.
St. Matthew’s uses the name Emmanuel, “God is with us,” in the beginning of his Gospel (1:23) to evoke the promise of deliverance that was made in Isaiah’s time. At the end of his Gospel (28:16-20) he alludes to Emmanuel again in the Great Commissioning. In it he relates Jesus’ calling of the eleven disciples to evangelization. It is a timeless and contemporary call to all believers to be salt and light to the world, to teach, to give witness, and to observe all that he has commanded. Matthew then closes his Gospel quoting Jesus saying, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
“God is with us” through us, and we have learned that “everyday people” like us don’t have to be to be standing on an altar or on a soap box to preach this presence of Jesus Christ; we can give witness to it by simply living it.
Ted Furlow retired as Director of Pastoral Planning in the Diocese of San Bernardino and continues in marriage preparation ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.