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The Way of BeautyIs Life a Cabaret or a Pilgrimage?

Most of us have heard the refrain: “Life is a cabaret, old chum, come to the cabaret.” The 1972 film, “Cabaret,” was set in the night life at the KitKatKlub, a decadent restaurant in 1931 Berlin just as the Nazi regime was rising to power.  

In stark contrast, Jesus describes life as a journey.  Speaking through Luke’s gospel, he cautions his disciples to travel lightly—detached from material things.  Though the word pilgrimage doesn’t appear in Jesus’ treasure trove of words, he is nevertheless on a sacred journey.  Jerusalem and Calvary are on the way to his final destination, the empty tomb.

During his short ministry, Jesus shared his life and teachings with others, and he invited them to discipleship and to fullness of life.  This royal road has drawn men and women since the early days of Christianity, and the invitation to join him remains open to all.  

Pilgrimage as Life’s Journey

A pilgrim is one who is at home everywhere and at home nowhere. This is why one of the Prefaces of the Mass reads:  “Strengthen your Pilgrim Church on earth.”  We live in the ‘city of man,’ but it is no lasting city . . . no cabaret. We are a Church on the way to the ‘city of God.’

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When infants are born, there is no telling what their journeys will be like. As with most people, they will weave together their hopes, dreams, and fears. People of faith grasp the metaphor of pilgrimage: at home everywhere, at home nowhere. Others may subscribe to the philosophy of ‘here today, gone tomorrow.’  

Films with a Travel Theme

In the “Wizard of Oz,” a young girl in Kansas engages in daydreaming and soul-searching to discover that life in Kansas is not so bad.  In fact, it’s just fine. In “The Way,” a father walks Spain’s Camino de Santiago Trail (Pilgrimage to St. James of Compostela) to honor his son, recently deceased. The experience opens his eyes in a deeply emotional experience when he is forced to make friends with complete strangers and to examine his life.  “Around the World in 80 Days” tests the resolve of an English gentleman to win a wager.  In the course of traveling in 80 days by any means, his life and that of his valet are changed.

Ups and Downs

In good times, we sprint and even skip, and in the bad, we stumble, fall, and get hurt.  These are times when decisions, bitter losses and betrayals have jolted us and halted our stride. It becomes necessary to pause, take stock, heal, and recoup our energies before resuming the journey.

Occasionally we hear someone say, ‘That chance meeting gave me a fresh perspective on life.’ Or, ‘if this event hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have changed for the better.’

More in The Way of Beauty

Sometimes tragedy transforms lives. In 1971, Charles Krauthammer was a brilliant first-year medical student in psychiatry at Harvard University.  One summer day, while diving into a pool, he hit his head at the bottom and severed his spinal cord.  He took his exams lying flat on his back, earned his medical degree with his class, and then spent his residency in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.  Today, Dr. Krauthammer, confined to a wheel chair, is a psychiatrist, author, journalist, and syndicated writer for The Washington Post.

The Way and Different Ways

Without a moral compass, it’s easy to lose one’s way.  The only religious figure who ever described himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” was Jesus Christ. Fix your eyes on him, Psalm 123 tells us, and he will make a safe path for us; his way is perfect.

Spiritual writers, philosophers and theologians described life as a journey. Saints Gregory of Nyssa, Bonaventure, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross wrote in terms of “ascents and descents” within oneself. Their message was intended for those who were circumscribed by a monastic way of life.  

By contrast, St. Ignatius’ spirituality was designed especially for people who work in a fast-moving world.  In fact, Ignatius was a recovering, battle-scarred soldier on the verge of conversion when he composed his Spiritual Exercises in a cave at Manresa, Spain.  

The Daily Examen was, and continues to be, a most powerful spiritual exercise found within these Exercises.  This short time of prayer of ten to twenty minutes keeps busy people spiritually balanced throughout the day.  It helps them seek and find God in the midst of their daily journey, whether in the home or at business, in the hospital, or when making critical decisions in the light of faith.  The Daily Examen has strengthened many to live as effective and affective disciples in the midst of today’s challenges and demands.

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