As I reflect on my life in this year of the Lord 2018, there is one small bit of history that I long to retrieve however there is not much promise that it will ever happen. My one great longing is to know exactly, exactly where I was born. I am relatively certain it was not at a hospital in a nearby city; it was in a house, a modest dwelling. I also am quite certain that it was in the state of North Dakota, perhaps in the county of Renville, township of Questad. Now, knowing that is all very important, but I would still like to return some day to the very spot on the North Dakota prairie where I discovered daylight for the first time. Sadly, that piece of geography has been lost or perhaps never thought important enough to be recorded.
I am reflecting on all this as I re-read the Scriptures for the Feast of the Epiphany, a word that means “to shine forth, to become gloriously visible.” The story informs us that some wisdom seekers from the East, that land of sunrise or light, sought to make their way west, to the land of sunset and darkness. Fortunately, they did not need the assistance of a GPS. The Scriptures relate that a star guided them from East to West. They were on their way to discover where a king was said to have been born. It turned out according to ancient prophecy that the birth of this noble person, would take place not in a grand palace but in a dirt-floor hut in the ramshackle village of Bethlehem, Judea.
Having arrived there, they found not a king as had been promised, but a child — one who, as it was later reported by Christian writers, would be the light of the world. It turned out to be Christ, son of Mary, light and savior of the world.
Returning for a moment to my own story of longing to return to my birthplace, it appears to me as I reflect on my life that, like the wise men from the East, I too have been guided by the light of a star, indeed many islands of light. Among those stars, I would count my mother and father who imbued me with the light of the Christian faith. To them I would add our pastor, Father Joseph Ott, and the dedicated Benedictine sisters who helped us understand, as best they could, the light of Catholic faith. Later, on as I made my way into the Congregation of Holy Cross, I had the tutelage of good priests, counselors and spiritual directors who enlightened me along the path of holiness.
Indeed, this personal story leads me back to the story of the Magi, those wise men from the East, that land of light. For them it was a life-story, a life-journey, and a voyage of hope from darkness to light, from the unknown to the known, from every-day life to mystery. Dare we say then that all of us are similar travelers, individuals and communities of people continually traveling from gloom to light, sojourners throughout our entire life, continually searching, always with the help of the light of others, for that homeland, that place of eternal light we so dearly long for?
Nonetheless, I would still like for someone to help me find that small rural dwelling where I first discovered the light of day. That is still my earnest hope; the rest is history.
Jan. 7 Scriptures
Isaiah 60: 1-6
Ephesians 3: 2-3, 5-6
Matthew 2: 1-12
The writer formerly served the Anchorage Archdiocese. He now lives in Notre Dame, Ind.