The Leaven and a child helped me hike a mountain — and enjoy the view

by Olivia Martin

A couple weeks ago, I was sent out on an assignment to cover a training session for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

I knew very little about the program, and what I did know were fragments of conversation overheard years before from some women who were thinking about becoming catechists. And I never thought about it again.

That is, until June 13, when I attended a day of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training as a Leaven reporter.

And ever since, it seems to be haunting me.

Not in the sense that I hear about it everywhere now or have been approached by the quintessential elderly woman after Mass asking if I’d ever thought about being a catechist.

It’s been a lot more subtle — I simply find a new awareness within me that watches for opportunities to learn from children. 

I especially thought of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd last week when I went to Colorado on vacation with friends from the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation.

We were young professionals, families, newly retired, singles, priests, Sisters, married couples — you name it — all staying at a camp in the mountains.

And the children made up the majority by a landslide.

On our first full day, we all took a hike as a group. It was crisp and sunny and all 80-something of us were feeling confident we could make the .8-mile hike to the summit.

I’m young and consider myself to be in good shape, so I set off near the front of the pack, right behind the children.

But it soon became apparent that either I was hopelessly out of shape or the hike was no walk in the park — or both. Steep in some places and unstable in others, I quickly began to lose my enthusiasm for the hike.

Luckily, right when pessimism started to invade, we stopped along the trail for a water break. And Edith, my nine-year-old friend from Atchison, approached me looking for water.

She shared my bottle and asked how much further we had to go. She was beginning to lose heart, too.

“We’re probably about halfway there,” I told her.

She sighed and looked up at me. It was a tough hike for a small girl.

“Ok. Can I hold your hand?” she asked.

I nodded and as she grabbed my hand I thought, “Ok, Liv, stay positive and set a good example for Edie on this hike.”

I didn’t expect a nine-year-old would be the example for me.

The main thing that struck me was that Edith was completely transparent in front of her circumstances — a gift of childhood that struggles to breathe in adulthood.

Whenever she got tired, she kept climbing, determined to get to the top to see which was the tallest tree.

Whenever she slipped, she got up and continued without dwelling on her fall. 

And all the while, she was teaching me to follow her. Literally — and figuratively. Edith’s resilience was evidence of the simple fact that she knew she was loved and cared for on the hike — like how we are loved and cared for by Christ in life.

When we finally reached the top, Edith and my eyes were full of wonder before the beauty we had to hike for.

And I was grateful that writing about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd helped me enjoy the view.

To read more about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, see page 3 in the most recent issue of The Leaven.

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