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June 13th, 2012by Sr. Marla Gipson

I remember when I was a participant in the RCIA process. One of the first conversations that we had was a dialogue about journey. It went something like this: life is a journey. However, this journey we speak of is not the kind that we necessarily know where we are going or how long it will take to get there, wherever or whatever “there” is. We don’t always know the best route. In fact, its probably best that we don’t know.  Looking up how to go from point A to point B, knowing the mileage and the turns, isn’t necessarily an option. This journey can also take us through rough terrain, up and down, from mountain to desert, in sun and rain. AAA and roadside service will not always be handy. The best thing for a GPS device is our faith in God. The brightest light on the dark road is Jesus Christ.  If ever needed, God will send the tow truck.

This particular conversation spoke volumes to me, so much so that I would repeat it as one of the start-up themes for conversation with inquirers in the RCIA process at the parish where I would eventually direct the RCIA. I assumed this role about eight years after I entered into Full Communion with the Catholic Church. As a participant in the process little did I know then where my journey would take me.

As a self-subscribed spiritual seeker, I think the idea of journey is more than a metaphor. Life really is a journey. Its about love and the search for LOVE. There’s the love with the people we find ourselves around. Initially it may have been the love we were born into whether it was in a hometown or a place where we literally grew from child to adult. It may have been a love that we thought was a love and it wasn’t. Or it may have been a love that wasn’t though we thought it was. It seems to me that the journey part jumpstarts when we begin, perhaps in a crisis or life-changing event, to ask ourselves what love really is. At least for me it did. Have you ever asked yourself what love really is? Be careful. God might really answer.

I know its almost a norm to self- identify as spiritual but not particularly religious. Each of us has a journey to make and if one grew up in a particular religion, at some point we need to own it as an adult- or not own it. I grew up Protestant. Faith was a personal, private thing. It was expected but not talked about much. It was so easy to compartmentalize my limited faith. As I grew older, the idea of faith and religious practice was an intellectual questioning. Not that an intellectual quest is a bad thing. In fact, it is a necessary thing. At some point, though, the heart has to kick in too. It’s the integration of the head and the heart where the quest for LOVE can take on biblical proportions.

Spirituality and religion, head and heart, are intrinsic to one another.  Though everyone’s journey is unique and everyone’s awareness as a person on the journey varies, mine continues to come to fruition through the grace of God in the Catholic Church.  Most days this journey is no day at the beach. The interplay between humanity and divinity is messy.  But that’s exactly the thing.  Our Eucharistic spirituality, our communal practices, our sacramental way of life, our liturgical celebrations- this whole ball of wax-is the vehicle I need to make this journey.  It’s the vehicle of how I journey and how I journey has everything to do with what I find on the journey. This how part is not a compartment but a way of life.

May your practice of religion and spirituality, your heart and head, bring you to the LOVE you seek. May it be your way of life.

Sr. Marla Gipson

Sr. Marla Gipson C.PP.S is a Sister of the Precious Blood. She currently lives in Minster, Ohio with a local community of Sisters where she ministers part-time as a Pastoral Associate at St. Augustine Church. She also ministers part-time as a Religious Education Consultant for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in the northern area regional Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and serves as one of the many Course Instructors for catechist certification. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Ohio State University and an M.A. in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton.