Editor’s note: Andy Gleason supports the FMS team as a grant writer; as part of FMS’ Lenten blog series, Andy reflects on  his experience listening, noticing, and wondering—especially during his time on El Camino de Santiago—and strives to apply these practices throughout the Lenten season.

As I sit in stillness this weekend morning, enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee, I notice the beautiful rays of sunshine cascading through my living room windows—filling the once dark space with a sense of warmth, hope and love. Staring out the frosted paned-glass windows towards the tree tops, I overhear a chorus of birds in the distance, and can’t help but close my eyes and imagine that springtime is surely just around the corner.

In these brief moments of stillness and silence, I find peace; I find calmness; and I find that I’m able to wholeheartedly listen, notice, and wonder. It has been quite some time since I have intentionally listened, noticed, and wondered, but I am gently reminded that in these moments, my spirit thrives as I am guided ever closer to God’s love.

In the early summer months of 2016, I journeyed with my partner and parents to Spain to embark on El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James), a Catholic pilgrimage with origins dating back to the 9th century. My father had dreamt of this journey ever since he and my mother viewed the screening of Emilio Estevez’s “The Way” at their home parish in Maine. In preparation for this pilgrimage, I spent hours reading countless articles, blogs, and travel sites—researching the best hiking gear, Camino routes, restaurants, hostels, and cultural attractions. Yet, amidst the logistical planning and preparation, I spent little time reflecting upon the profound spiritual journey that lie ahead.     

Once on our journey, I was overcome by the beauty, the tranquility, and the absolute splendor of God’s creation that surrounded us every step of the way. We walked through low valleys and over steep hills, through deep-green forests and coastal farmlands; we shared laughs and stories, and at times, annoyance and frustration after having missed trail-markers.

We also shared moments of stillness, silence and quiet reflection. It was in those holy moments where I listened, noticed, and wondered. I listened to the world around me (God’s creation), paying attention to the many graces sent my way; I noticed the inner movements and stirrings, guiding me towards God’s love; and I wondered and pondered my life’s purpose, and how I will intend to live-out and share God’s love on earth.  

During this Lenten season I desire to ground myself in these simple, yet profound, practices which will guide me ever closer to God’s love and relationship. What will be revealed to you as you take time to listen, notice and wonder this Lenten season?

Let us pray:

Teach me to listen, O God,
to those nearest me,
my family, my friends, my co-workers.
Help me to be aware that
no matter what words I hear, the message is,
“Accept the person I am. Listen to me.”

Teach me to listen, my caring God,
to those far from me—
the whisper of the hopeless,
the plea of the forgotten,
the cry of the anguished.

Teach me to listen, O God my Mother,
to myself.
Help me to be less afraid
to trust the voice inside—
in the deepest part of me.

Teach me to listen, Holy Spirit,
for your voice—
in busyness and in boredom,
in certainty and in doubt,
in noise and in silence.

Teach me, Lord, to listen. Amen.

Adapted by John Veltri, SJ