“No one can face life in isolation... We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together...”
Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti
Hikes are a favorite family pastime in these days without Saturday sports and activities. We are blessed to live very close to Valley Forge National Park, though, like most things that are close by, they tend to go unnoticed. We scouted out a 3-mile out and back loop we thought we could manage which had us make the turn-around at a massive arch built to commemorate the 1777-1778 winter encampment of the Continental Army and the countless lives lost to fighting for America’s freedom. In my 38 years of life, I’ve driven past the arch a dozen times but never walked through it. As we did, my second oldest stopped and read the inscription out loud, an excerpt from an oration by Henry Armitt Brown in 1877.
“And here in this place of sacrifice, in this vale of humiliation, in this valley of the shadow of that death out of which the life of America rose regenerate and free, let us believe with an abiding faith that to them, union will seem as dear, and liberty as sweet, and progress as glorious as they were to our fathers and are to you and me and that the institutions which have made us happy, preserved by the virtue of our children shall bless the remotest generation of the time to come.”
“Who’s the ‘them’?” Katie asked me with a confused face. Reading the inscription a second time, I responded, “Well, I guess we are. We are the people who he hopes these things will matter for.” Katie looked back at the monument and asked, “Do they?” I gathered my troops and suggested we head back. “We’ve got a long walk.” It was both my response to her question and a way out of responding to her question. As we walked back and tried to unpack those thoughts, I couldn’t help but think of how hard it is for me to sacrifice for the future. Whether it’s putting some money away each month for college or maintaining discipline in my work, or even as we wrestle with some of the enormous challenges our country is facing, am I fighting for today, or am I fighting for tomorrow? Am I sacrificing for my own needs or for the fruit still yet to be born? We know from this past Sunday’s Gospel that Jesus promised the Kingdom of God “would be given to a people that will produce fruit.” The biggest question is not whether I win the battle for me, but if my sacrifice today “blesses the remotest generation of the time to come.” Let’s work, in union, for them.