I've always loved the sea, and love being on a boat, a ship, or for that matter, any a floating barge. I've always loved to read about naval expeditions, history of naval battles, and the lives (though sometimes fictional—as portrayed in Patrick O'Brian's books) of the thousands of sailors who found both deliverance and despair in the oceans. Needless to say, I've not been literally caught tossing about a floating tub in the middle of a raging storm (thank God!).
"Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World. ... And the sea will grant each man new hope ... his sleep brings dreams of home."—Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón)
Our life, a journey to our 'true home'—a place of unimaginable wonder—is very much like a sea-bound journey. In most seafaring civilisations, it is understood that a sea-bound journey could be a mortally perilous journey: treacherous seas (with mortal distractions like the Sirens in Odysseus' voyage), frequent squalls, and inevitable changes of route. The risk of lives lost during a sea-bound voyage had become tolerable, even acceptable.
How is our life like a journey on the high seas? Storms, lots of storms. Two Sundays ago, the mass readings painted storms in our lives as a way of life; that all storms are within God's power to invoke and to quell: it is sometimes given so that in our complete faith, we can cry out to the Almighty Father. And these two weeks' readings remind us of faith: faith when the waves seem to overwhelm the little fishing boat, faith of the leper, faith of the Roman centurion, faith of the haemorrhage-ing woman, faith of Jairus, the faith of St Peter, and today, the faith of St Thomas.
Some things in life seem to be like taking different boats to a known destination. Some liken dating different people to getting on different boats; if you don't like where it's going after some time, the common saying goes, get off and get on a new boat. Some liken professional vocation to different boats too. But really, how can we be on a few different boats ("love-boat"—out of lack of a better name, "work-boat", and "spiritual-boat") if we only have one destination? Maybe the metaphor isn't very accurate here.
The Church is the one true ark that will carry us home. Of that I am sure. So were any of the other boats imaginary? I was mulling over this (as some of you know, it is my primary timesink these days, thinking about Vocation in life), and one of the priests I talked to, kept saying that it is a great opportunity to meet many people of all walks and spread the faith. Hmm.. kinda far from the locus of the problem, don't you think? It took St Teresa de Avila to remind me that the Logos is revealed to many people through their professional vocation; but when we already believe, thinking (and worrying) about our professional vocation seemed unnecessary, or unimportant at best, in comparison with the need to find our way home and on the way, bring other souls along. So, Father was right...
About professional vocation, I still think it is important, albeit of secondary importance. There are days where I feel very much like an impostor—drifting about at work, doing what I've always done, yet not able to contribute more. Through a friend, I was reminded that it is through our weakness God manifests His greatness. Who am I to say that, if a day has been good because I did something, it did not come from God? The days when I think I've "relied too much on God", what I'm really thinking is that, there are days when I could've relied less on Him! And so, whether a day has been 'good' or 'so-so', what good we do that day comes from nowhere else but God! Deo gratias!
It has been a long post: every morning, we take out our boat and start again on our journey home. Rephrasing Christopher Columbus, I wish that each leg of your journey grant you a new hope.
A modern proverb says, there is no atheist at the trenches. To that I will add, there are no atheists at sea either! (Seen the movie K19: The Widowmaker yet?) I'd like to end this very long rambling post with a little note to honor (and humor) the Holy Spirit. (It is not applicable to the age of submarines, but hey, don't we all get on a boat sometime in our life?)
On a boat in the middle of a bight; we row, we row, and we row.
Not another ship was in view, And no land in sight.
The sun scorched our paint, and scourged our souls.
When the Spirit of God blows, like the westerlies
it delivers us from the bight, towards our true patria.
The Spirit blows again, and rainclouds fall to quench our thirst.
All we have to do, is billow our sail, catch the sweet water,
and hold fast our rudder to the one true North.
Because we know, we get closer to home every time the Spirit blows.