Verso l'alto. It's Italian for "to the heights." I know I'm currently residing in Australia and not Italy, but bear with me for a moment and I'll explain.
I've spent the past four months living in a strange, but similar, land. I've taken myself far from my roots, my foundations. And in so doing I've found what those foundation were.
And that's when my penchant for that Italian phrase comes into the picture. Verso l'alto. To the heights.
Those words were the metaphor and motto for the life of a remarkable man named Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Frassati was a devout, Italian Catholic and he lived this phrase to its fullest. For Frassati it was not enough to exist. It was insufficient to breathe in and breathe out until death took him. It is necessary for us all to live and to do that we must orient ourselves towards the heights.
For Frassati and myself, along with many other devout Catholics, those heights represent nothing less than sainthood. Maybe you're not Catholic or even Christian, but I ask you to consider the heights that await at the edge of your vision.
By orienting ourselves towards that high reality, those heights, we can live in a joyful and authentic manner.
But this true form of living requires struggle and effort. We can breathe in and out until death takes us and we may never struggle. TV shows and news programs will fly by and life shall pass with a flicker.
Or we can embrace a steady struggle for charity, joy, truth and decency.
Those heights, those struggles, are not something anyone has to face alone though. The heights are not a solemn and solitary adventure, though there are such moments.
We have around us millions of souls at all stages of the journey. Some still look up at the heights and wonder how they will begin. Some are beside us on these first steps, and we grin even as we climb to know we have such a community beside us. And some are far above, shouting down encouragement, letting us know the heights are reachable and sainthood achievable.
But everyone is called to orient themselves towards the heights, to gaze upwards. Life spent looking at the earth is not for us. It will serve only to steal that wide-eye and childlike joy that we need.
What does this have to do with me and having traveled to Australia? It's simple.
In leaving my home in southern Indiana, I've had a chance to climb just a few feet higher than before on my own journey to the heights. And even in this short journey, I see things differently.
I've traveled halfway around the world and done so alone. I've had to be my own motivation these past few months. I'm my motivation to pray, to study and to run.
It's only now that I realize just what a blessing it is to have dozens of people around you all oriented towards the same reality as you. Towards sainthood and truly living a joyful life.
In taking myself away from those people and those foundations, I've made some rudimentary steps in orienting myself towards the heights above and made several halting steps in that direction.
I could never have done that had I not left.
Life is a constant evolution and I've had similar moments before and will have more after this. But this much I've learned.
We're not here to take life slow, to breathe in and breathe out and then lie quiet.
We're here to shout to the heavens in one moment and then to kneel beside the sick and the poor in the next. We're called to fall to our knees in thanks for the beautiful day while jumping up in protest at the indignities heaped upon our brothers and sisters.
In orienting ourselves towards the heights we gain a greater perspective for those around us.
Life is defined by the heights of joy and the valleys of sorrow. You can look down or you can look up. You can shrug and keep walking, or you can begin climbing.
I don't know about you, but I'm not here to just "get along," I'm here to live and to burn brightly in the short time that I am on this earth.
So who wants to scale the heights with me? Verso l'alto.