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THE ROAD TO EASTER: Nature’s way

Father John walks part of Camino de Santiago in Spain

February 16, 2018
By REV. JOHN YANKOVIG - St. Agnes Church pastor , Lake Placid News

This past October, I walked part of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain.

The Camino has attracted pilgrims for more than 10 centuries, but Martin Sheen's 2010 movie, "The Way," has spurred on great popularity. Each year, over 250,000 people travel from St. Jean-Pied-de- Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Over the next few weeks, religious leaders in our village will be sharing some thoughts in the Lake Placid News on stepping away from the abundant technology of our lives in order to embrace the simpler aspects of living.

Article Photos

Rev. John Yonkovig

"Nature" is my topic.

On the pillars of St. Agnes Church, you will find traditional maple sap buckets during the 40 days of Lent. The sap buckets serve as a parable of nature - the maple tree gives up her sap and our lives become sweeter. In turn, what we give up in Lent should make our world sweeter.

Leaving behind the comforts of life in Lake Placid, I started my trek across Spain on Oct. 8. It began with a cancelled flight out of the Albany Airport and an overnight delay. The first lesson of this pilgrimage was clear: There are no guarantees in life and a pilgrim is well served by offering gratitude for all experiences encountered along the path.

Once in Spain, I began the walk. Every day, 15 or so miles were walked through mostly rural Galicia. Spain is certainly a modern country, but I gave up the sophisticated technology of our 21st century and began to absorb the sweetness and the tranquility of nature. Walking in the footsteps of millions of people before me, I was overwhelmed by the thought that every one of us is a pilgrim, just passing through life. You put yourself on the road, a journey into the unknown, to be open to hear God's call.

Being out in nature brings us intimately closer to the Creator.

The Russian climber Anatoli Nickolivich Boukreev wrote,

"Mountains are not the stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve. They are the cathedrals where I practice my religion. I go to them as humans go to worship. From their lofty summits I view my past, dream of the future and with unusual acuity, am allowed to experience the present moment ... my vision cleared, my strength renewed. In the mountains I celebrate creation. On each journey I am reborn."

Walking in nature puts you in touch with your deeper desires, what you really want. These will bring you to God by following this longing.

"Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord," said St. Augustine. God is with you even if you are not with God. So whether walking the Camino in Spain or the Peninsula Trail in our backyard, when you are out in nature you can't help but come to a deeper sense of God's presence.

Emily Dickinson, in a short poem, gives insight into this renewal.

Exhilaration is the Breeze

That lifts us from the Ground,

And leaves us in another place

Whose statement is not found -

Returns us not, but after time

We soberly descend,

A little newer for the term

Upon Enchanted Ground -

We are fortunate to live surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Unplug yourself and take a walk in nature and you will find yourself on enchanted ground. It will transform your life!



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