We were driving into Austin, TX so that Ben could run in the marathon (He’s insane, in my humble opinion. But he finished under his goal and we are super proud!). Per our usual arrangement, Ben was driving and I was navigating. I started chuckling to myself as I told him he would need to turn left ahead, and that there would be a Joe’s Crab Shack on the right. Usually, I don’t give him references like that, and he made a funny face. “What?” I said, “Google says so.” Within the directions on my phone it had not just what streets to turn on, but it also gave landmarks for most of them. This was new to us.
Google told us things like “Pass by the Pizza Hut on the left,” and “Turn before the Wendy’s across the street on the right.” I don’t think this is a feature everywhere (I ran a search from our house to base and didn’t get any helpful hints). But Austin is a major city, so I imagine this is the the next step for Google navigation.
I am more of a landmark based direction person. I can find my way around much better if I can connect a memory to the location or the steps in the directions. This was clear on the way back to the car when I found myself saying things like,”Oh we have to turn here because remember, John, you saw the longhorn statue,” and “I think we keep going straight because we need to pass the corner where that huge tree is.”
Landmarks, large and small, trigger memories. They cause us to think of something. The Statue of Liberty may bring forward memories of a visit to Ellis Island or perhaps your sophomore year high school history class learning about the Irish Famine and the immigrants who passed under her torch. A picture of Mt. Everest might make you think of endurance, persistence and the ultimate challenge. Maybe seeing the Grand Canyon or the Golden Gate Bridge will make you recall a favorite vacation or family who live nearby.
Our lives are filled with landmarks. We all have favorite spots, restaurants, parks, places that hold fond memories. There are also landmarks that don’t necessarily hold memories, rather they serve as guideposts. They are the landmarks that help us remember how to get where we want to go. On our way to base, Clare, who is 3, can shout out at least 4 different landmarks along the route. There’s that coffee shop you pass on your daily run, which subconsciously lets you know you only have 1 mile left until you are home. You pass by a pizza place or go over a bridge every time you go to your grandma’s house.
The Church, wise as she is, give us lots and lots of landmarks, both big and small. The big ones – the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, Chartes Cathedral, The Chapel of the Nativity, and so so many more. The point of these immense spaces is to point our gaze heavenward. They are beautiful in their own right, but they are also beautiful because they show us a glimpse of a deeper reality. If you would like an example, check out this short (6 minutes) video excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series.
As reflective individuals, we have the opportunity to decorate our homes and environments. We surround ourselves with images, furniture, and necessities. Some of these items we need, like clothes, cooking supplies, food, etc. Others are more decorative – pictures on the wall, stylized couches and tables, calendars, books, clocks, and accessories. We can, and often do, place certain items with great care and in specific rooms. The dining table obviously goes in the dining room or kitchen. A pull-out couch or bed would be out of place in the patio.
Just as the everyday items of our home “belong” certain places, religious items too can have great significance on what goes on in that space. They serve as landmarks within our home, helping to guide our families’ day along paths of holiness. A crucifix in each bedroom is a great place to start. Many families have a small holy water font by the front door. Perhaps an icon of the Holy Trinity, whose image the family reflects, would fit well in your living or dining room. Our kids have an icon of their saint namesake in their bedrooms. Ben’s grandmother has a small photograph of a young refugee girl near her front door because it reminds her to pray for all those who will spend the day/night without a home, especially refugees. I have an icon of Mary and a few prayer cards scattered throughout the kitchen because they remind me to approach the day as Mary did, with a smile and a Yes to God’s will.
What sorts of landmarks do you have in your home that help you and your family keep on your path to holiness?