Climbing the Spiritual El Capitan

Climbing the Spiritual El Capitan January 18, 2015

rock climbingThese week two amazing guys did the first free climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite.

Kevin J0rgeson and Tommy Cauldwell spent nineteen days on the cliff face ascending a granite wall twice the height of the Empire State Building.

Read about it and see the interview here.

One of the climber said afterward that it was “a spiritual experience.”

It made me think that if we considered the spiritual life to be more like free climbing El Capitan we’d be better off.

Jesus calls us on an adventure that is just as difficult in spiritual terms–the adventure to become a saint.

One of the reasons so many people drop out of Christianity is that we’ve sold them the wrong message to start with.

We’ve quietly forgotten that Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me” and prefer to think of the Master as “gentle Jesus meek and mild.”

What we do is exactly the opposite. Christ call us on the great adventure and we want to stay home in the Shire, snug in our hobbit hole. We want our religion to make us comfortable, respectable and hunky dory.

He comes and calls us to climb El Capitan.

The problem with turning religion into one of the ways to support the comfort zone is that it is not only a false religion, but I am convinced, it drives away the young people–especially the guys.

Young guys want a challenge. They want a mountain to climb and an enemy to engage. They war an El Capitan to scale with nothing but a few ropes to catch their fall.

We’ve gone and turned Christianity into the sissy religion where we go around apologizing to people all the time and paying more attention to brocade vestments and pretty artwork than to getting on with the robust challenge of following Christ the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for beauty in worship, and this blog has spoken up for that many times. What I think weakens the gospel is when the Catholic faith is nothing BUT chasubles, chalices and china tea cups.

To be a Catholic is embark on the great adventure or it is nothing at all, and a great adventure, like climbing Dawn Wall on El Capitan requires taking a risk and chancing it all for the summit.

So when Tommy Cauldwell and Kevin Jorgeson climbed that wall they reminded me to never give up in the steep ascent to achieve my destiny of being one in Christ.

No wonder, therefore, that Dante likened Purgatory to climbing a mountain. In Purgatory he has each soul encouraging each other and helping each other climb–just like Joreson and Cauldwell did. They endured great hardships, but did so joyful with passion and power in their hearts. They accomplished great things, and so the joy is there in the purification of Purgatory of running the race, completing the course, enduring the hardship and winning the prize.

Image via Bing


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