The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a book worth
reading. It is the story of a monk, Brother
Juniper, who having witnessed a rope-bridge
in Peru snapping and sending five people
to their deaths at the bottom of a gorge,
asks the question: “Why them?” Having been
only moments away from crossing the bridge
himself, he determines he must discover the
reason for it.
He reflects, “Why did this happen to those
five? If there were any plan in the universe
at all, if there were any pattern in human
life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously
latent in those lives so suddenly cut off.
Either we live by accident and we die by
accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.”
So he decides go back into the lives of these
five people to discover some kind of trend,
some kind of explanation. Do these things
just happen, all a question of fate - being
at the wrong place at the wrong moment? Or
perhaps there is a divine justice which punishes
the bad and lets the good triumph? Or perhaps
God wants the just to go quickly to heaven
and the bad to stay longer here on earth?
Why do things happen? Why do I have this
marriage breakdown, this sickness, this rebellious
child, all these money problems, these fits
of anger, this alcohol addiction? This is
the kind of question that we cannot keep
running away from. It will hit us one day
John the Baptist is a help. He is the child
of the impossible; he should never have been
born. His father was Zachariah, a temple
priest and his mother was Elizabeth, a cousin
of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was not only
‘barren’ but also well advanced in age. Jesus
Christ called him ‘the greatest of all those
born of women’.
John is the result of a divine intervention.
We also. One element in the jigsaw puzzle
of life is the simple truth that none of
us is here simply because mom and dad one
day had a relationship. We are not simply
the result of a decision our parents took.
Neither are we here by chance. There is a
bigger mind and a bigger heart behind our
existence. The prophet Isaiah is so adamant
about it: “The Lord formed me in the womb...”.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding our
birth were, God was there. God wanted us.
God made us.
And if God made us, then He must have made
us for a good purpose. He is a Father, a
good father. When I joined Carmel, we had
a very beautiful custom. At the end of each
day after the Night prayers, we would all
kneel down at the entrance of our room, and
the superior, an icon of God the Father,
would approach and bless us individually,
touching slightly our heads as a sign of
acceptance, forgiveness and love.
It was just a reminder, an important and
constant reminder, that we have a Father
in heaven - someone who cares, someone who
nurtures and esteems us. Someone who accepts
our weakness and helps us to rise to lofty
Perhaps the problem for some of us is that
we are living as if we are fatherless. We
feel too much alone. We face our struggles
and problems all alone. There is no one to
tell us what is right and what is wrong,
no one to tell us that we matter, that we
are forgiven and cherished, no one to tell
us that we are loved.
John the Baptist grew up to be so fearless
because he knew that his life was enveloped
in the love of a Father in heaven. Later
on in life, he denounced the incestuous relationship
of the governor Herod Antipas with his niece
and brother’s wife, Herodias. He was beheaded
for his guts. His courage cost him dearly
but it made his life significant. Because,
yes, what makes life meaningful is love.
Because he was connected with God, he could
connect with others. The book The Bridge
of San Luis, finishes with this forceful
sentence, “There is a land of the living
and a land of the dead and the bridge is
love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
We are loved. We have a Father. So we are
never alone. We can love. So others can never
be alone. This is what life is all about.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright