While researching a piece on the Communion of Saints, I mentally struggled not with the details, but with an overall framework in which to place it. There are so many related topics, indeed our entire Catholic faith, that it is easy to get sidetracked. Always a fan of analogies as vehicles (pun intended) for teaching concepts, a somewhat “fun” one occurred to me. I call it the road trip of life.
Humor me and for the moment and consider your life as a road trip. You are the driver of a car (the Church) that can easily “go the distance.” The destination is heaven but every journey will be unique. The car is not a remotely controlled vehicle, but may be freely driven by you in any direction you wish. Your trip had a starting point and will end at a specific time unknown to you.
Your car is a really fine vehicle (Catholic) with everything you need for a successful trip. It has an excellent owner’s manual (the Holy Bible), but trained mechanics (the Magisterium) are needed to fully understand (interpret) it. Even so, the owner’s manual does not contain everything knowable about the car. The mechanics have the complete picture (Sacred Tradition) from their training. Fortunately, your car comes with full service.
The car is propelled by a powerful engine (the sacraments) with an inexhaustible supply of fuel (grace). To insure that you do not get lost, it has the latest GPS navigation system (the Holy Spirit) available for your use. There are some nice additional features that can be used as needed, such as the (holy) water of the windshield washer.
At times during this trip you may have some additional passengers. They are on their own trips, but might ride part of the way with you. Sitting next to you at some point might be a spouse with whom you take turns driving. A little further down the road there may be some young passengers in the back seat.
There are a lot of other cars on the road. Some are going the same direction you are. Some are stopped or worse, going in the opposite direction. Many drivers are just lost and you try to help if you can. The goal is to get everyone to the destination while they still have time.
As you look around, you notice that not all the cars are the same as yours. None are better, but many are less capable. Some were once just like yours, but have been modified by their driver resulting in degraded performance. They may still reach the destination, but the trip will be more difficult. Usually their drivers think they have made the car “better” and are oblivious to its impaired safety systems and slower speed.
Some of the other cars are derivatives from an earlier model year (often about 500 years ago) and suffer from extensive modifications over the centuries. They too can reach the destination, but their incomplete cars hamper the trip.
Finally, some vehicles on the road are not even cars (through no fault of their drivers), but the resolve of their operators is so strong that they too may reach the destination.
Your top-of-the-line car performs well, passing many of the lesser vehicles. That is alright as long as they are headed toward the destination. You always give your fellow travelers a “thumbs-up” and encourage them along the way regardless of how they choose to make the trip. Hopefully they will upgrade to your model (available free of charge) to improve their journey and likelihood of success.
While the road is often smooth and straight, sometimes curves unexpectedly appear and some areas can be quite rough. In those times you particularly appreciate the fine engineering of your car. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but it is guaranteed for life when properly operated.
The one sad thing is seeing stopped cars or those going the wrong way. Some are even the same fine model you are driving. Those drivers had the greatest opportunity to reach the destination yet chose another path. We can only hope that they come to their senses and turn around.
When the journey is over, some will be able to immediately enjoy the wonderful amenities available at the destination. Many of us will need to first freshen-up and recover from the ride. Either way, it is worth the trip and all who have made it are cheering for those of us still on the road!