Road Trip

This week's reflection is written by
Mr. Joseph McDaniel, OSFS, seminarian.

During the next couple of months, many of us may find ourselves piling into our proverbial station wagon, or other vehicle of our choice, and undertaking a kind of journey that is in many ways iconic of the American summertime: a road trip. The purposes and destinations of these journeys are manifold, as well as the company with whom the trip is undertaken. It could be a family packing their car to the brim as they embark on a camping excursion, a group of college students ready for a weekend “down the Shore,” or an individual’s desire to avoid the lines and checkpoints of today’s airports.

Tomorrow, dozens of Oblates will be buckling up our seatbelts as we depart from this year’s Assembly of the North American Provinces, a gathering of Oblates from across the United States, held at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. I will be among many making the eight-hour trek to the Toledo area across Pennsylvania and Ohio. I can attest that the route crosses some beautiful woodland, mountain, and agricultural scenery. However, when one has made the journey at least a dozen times before, it can also become a tedious affair. One curve begins to resemble another for a succession of hundreds of miles, and a brisk 75 mph speed soon begins to seem a rather modest pace.

When rounding the bends and counting the mileposts, it can be easy to drift into autopilot. Set the car into cruise control, turn on some bland pop music to keep yourself awake, and wait until your destination arrives. When this approach is taken, however, an opportunity is missed to make more of the journey itself worthwhile. Maybe the eight hours presents an opportunity to engage in deeper conversation with those with whom you are travelling. To download and listen to an enlightening podcast or audio-book. To rediscover the beauty of a landscape that to you may be an old sight, but to many others is breathtaking.

While, thankfully, not every day for us involves a 500-mile drive, we often spend most of our days traversing territory that is evidently familiar to us. Eight hours a day spent in the same office or workspace, several hours a week spent in commute, the same chores and tasks that confront us when we arrive at home. Like on a road trip, drifting into autopilot can seem like the most enticing option.

As when we are on the highway, we can work to retrieve the value of the journey that we are embarking upon. It is a matter of seeing the opportunities presented before us to which we are so accustomed that we forget that they are there. In our Salesian tradition, the Direction of Intention prayer is instrumental in recovering this vision. We call to mind God’s presence, offer what we are doing to God, and then promise to accept whatever unexpected twists and turns we may encounter. In doing so, an ordinary trip around the block of our daily routine can be transformed into an exciting new road trip where we discover something new, about ourselves, about what we do, and about God.

My God
I give you this action
I offer you now all the good that I shall do
And I promise to accept, for love of you,
all the difficulty I shall meet.
Help me to conduct myself during it in a
manner pleasing to you. Amen.

As we make our road trips, let us be mindful of the presence of God, following the directions of maps and praying the Direction of Intention.