Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Catholic Culture: The Catholic Pilgrim

Meet Evan Michael Mary.  A convert to the Faith from California.  A tribute to grace at work. 

He earned his BA degree at Thomas Aquinas College, his MA from the University of Dallas and his Licentiate in philosophy from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.  He is currently completing his doctoral studies in Rome.

I have never in all my travels met a pilgrim like Evan.  His journeys and adventures make him an unparalleled pilgrim.  A bit like a wandering wayfarer from the Middle Ages, playing his mandolin, he can be seen walking from one place to the next, in general silence.  Sometimes reading authors such as Livy or Aristotle.

Evan is the Catholic D.H. Lawrence sharing interesting tidbits of knowledge about Roman, Greek and Etruscan history and mythology.  His formation at Thomas Aquinas College was crucial to making him the person he is today.  For those who do not know, T.A.C. is the Athens of classical Catholic education, the acropolis of learning, located in the mountains west of Los Angeles.      

Evan once brought me to where Rome was born, at Lake Nemi and even to where Cicero is buried, at Formia.  At Arpino he brought me to see the head of Thomas Aquinas.  At Roccasecca we walked amid the ruins of the castle where Aquinas was born, and prayed in the room where he died at Fossanova Abbey.  We walked the ruins of Via Appia Antica.

Other adventures brought me at his invitation to stay at the Byzantine Abbey of Grottaferrata where we ate figs from the trees.  We climbed to the top of Rocca di Papa.  It was Evan who showed me Norcia before it was destroyed by earthquake.  Once we walked the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, behind the scenes.

One day, hiking along the sea shore, he led me to see the ruins of a fascinating ancient Roman fish-farm, still visible in the sea at Santa Marinella.  Last October at dusk we swam in the dark in the "Mare Nostrum."  Another time he took me to the top of a building to explain the summer constellations - at TAC he studied some astronomy.  We even met together the daughter of the man who invented the radio, Princess Marconi.   

Evan lives on a very meager diet, he is frugal and carries his Byzantine prayer cord wrapped around his wrist.  He wears the brown scapular.  Many nights Evan has slept under the stars and he can tell you about the August "tears of St. Lawrence" meteor shower. 

Worshiping in Eastern and Western rites, his prayer is versatile.  He has prayed and sung liturgical chants in Latin and Greek.  I will forever be grateful for the summer he saved me when I had no place to live in Rome, and his Italian girlfriend was gracious enough to allow me to stay at a Catholic house, the famed Casa Mamre.  Another time he tutored me in philosophy to help me pass a class I had failed.      

A loyal friend to all, Evan has done countless walking pilgrimages.  Some near, some far.  The Holy Land, Greece, Mt. Athos, Ireland, the Chartres Pilgrimage, the Camino of St. James, the Camino of St. Benedict.  He has lived and worked at Byzantine and Latin Rite monasteries, his appearance is forever changing like a chameleon until he has a shave and a haircut.  You can forever recognize him by the scent of Tuscan cigars, made famous in Clint Eastwood Westerns. 

This veritable pilgrim also taught me an interesting bit about pilgrimage and miracles.  Sometimes people go on pilgrimages looking for miracles.  Often, what they find is great consolation.  This is the miracle.  Consolation.  This gift is peace of heart.

Evan currently resides by the sea outside Rome where the Etruscans lived.  It has been five years since he has been back home.  Some day he will make a fine professor of philosophy, teaching Aristotle and Aquinas to the next generation of thinker.  May God continue to guide this pilgrim soul. And may he be led to teach where Providence calls him, on either side of the ocean.       

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