THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket
There midnight ‘s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Wlliam Butler Yeats
When I first stumbled upon Charlie Johnston’s Blog, The Next Right Step https://charliej373.wordpress.com/author/charliej373/ I knew immediately that I had found a kindred soul.
Most of my life, with the exception of the three years I spent in the United States Army Air Force during World War II and the ten years I spent as a Benedictine Monk in Saint Vincent Abbey in Latrobe, I have been forced to live in cities. I was born in New Orleans, lived in Saint Louis, Missouri, and was raised in Houston and Texas City, Texas. It is not that I hate city life, on the contrary I appreciate the proximity that one has to all the essential services one requires from time to time from others, but that I love nature and the stark bareness of most cityscapes can be depressing to certain types of individuals and I am one such individual. Perhaps that is why I gave up the practice of Architecture and sought the solitude of a monastery.
In addition to serving as a bishop in three dioceses, Miami, Pennsacola-Tallahassee and Corpus Christi, I served as the Grand Prior of the Southwestern Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and in that capacity in October of a year I led many pilgrimages of the members of the Order to Europe and the Mid-East, always ending up in the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Of necessity most of the time those pilgimages required us to spend time in cities.
It should be understandable therefore that beginning in 1976 and until 1997, I sought the solitude of the Rocky Mountains during my annual 30 day vacation in the summer. In those twenty-one years I camped, hiked and fished my way from the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado all the way up to Jasper, Alberta Province, Canada. In the first fourteen years I lived alone in a tent but as I got older my body began to complain about the rigors of camping and so in 1990 I bought a small, unfinished cabin that had been started by a Mennonite couple on Boulder Ridge southwest of Laramie, Wyoming at 8,400 feet elevation and set to work finishing it. The next seven years I enjoyed the relative comforts of the cabin which had neither running water or electricity when I bought it. The cabin was located just two miles north of the Colorado border and the Roosevelt National Forest. Its isolation immersed in such natural beauty was like a foretaste of heaven.
Perhaps part of my love of the Rocky Mountains was due to the fact that I was born ten feet below sea level in New Orleans and have spent most of my life living along the Gulf Coast from Naples, Florida to Corpus Christi, Texas ten feet above sea level. But the main attraction of the Rocky Mountains was the solitude that was to be found and enjoyed there.
The love of Solitude is something that should come naturally to the Christian. My favorite homily that I enjoyed preaching whenever I celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation was to point out to the confirmandi being confirmed in the Holy Spirit meant that they now had a greater obligation to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit whispering in the ear of their conscience. The problem they, we, face in modern society is that we are immersed much of the time in the cacaphony of sound being directed at us by others, by radio, by television, by iPod, by city sounds, etc. Solitude is the antidote to that cacaphony. In silence, especially the silence of the sounds of nature in a forest or a meadow can enable one to hear the Holy Spirit with clarity.
It was no accident that Our Lord Jesus Christ left his mother and father (if Saint Joseph was still alive) around the age of 30, left his carpenter shop in Nazareth with the necessity of doing business with his customers, and retreated to the wilderness, probably between Jericho and Jerusalem, and spent 40 days and 40 nights in solitude, immersed in fasting and prayer in preparation for beginning his public ministry when he presented himself to St. John the Baptist at the river Jordan to be baptized.
Charlie Johnston loves the solitude of his cabin in Colorado. I envy him that solitude, although I did enjoy the solitude of my little cattle ranch from 1997 until, to quote Eliza Doolittle, the drought ‘did me in,” in 2012. Since then I have lived in the little frame house built by my predecessor, Bishop Thomas Drury, across from the Bishops’ House on Ocean Drive right on the shore of Lake Corpus Christi. I frequently think of William Butler Yeats’ poem as I listen to the waves lapping on the shore just 75 feet from my sun porch.
Another reason why I have found a soul mate in Charlie Johnston is because he believes that we are living in the end times and so do I. He has arrived at that belief because of private revelations he has received; I have arrived at that belief because I have followed the injunction of the Church to “read the signs of the times.”
Like Charlie, I am at peace at 91 going on 92 (June 9, 2015) because I know that all that God expects of me is to love him with all my heart and all my soul and to love my neighbor as myself, to try my best to cooperate with his grace and to do his will. Doing that is the best preparation anyone could have to endure whatever lies ahead for us.
Peace be with you!