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This is the Way, Walk in It – Br. James Koester

I spent a lot of time thinking, and pondering, and reflecting this past fall. Sometimes I simply thought about the weather, or the beauty of the scenery. Sometimes my reflections were much deeper than that, as I pondered where I had come from, and where I was going, not just that day, but in my life. A lot of the time, I thought about the path, literally, that was ahead of me.

Some of you will know that this September, I spent two weeks walking the Hadrian’s Wall Path in northern England. The Hadrian’s Wall Path, as its name suggests, is one of the great long distance walking paths in Britain, following the 85 mile route of Hadrian’s Wall, from Wallsend, just east of Newcastle, to Bowness on Solway, to the west of Carlisle. As you can imagine, walking 85 miles over the course of two weeks gives you lots of opportunity to think about any number of things.

But as I said, one of the things which I thought about, a lot, was the path itself, and more generally, the nature of paths.

For a path to be a path, you have to be able to see it, more or less, or at least catch glimpses of it, every so often. And for that to happen, somebody needs to have walked it ahead of you. That person may be just ahead of you. You might be able to see them, but then again, they may have passed that way long ago. In either case, having gone ahead of you, they have left evidence of having passed the same way. It might be a shoe or a boot abandoned in the muck, something they have dropped, a pile of stones, a depression in the grass, or a way marker inscribed with an arrow pointing the way. Whatever it is, it is a sign saying, this is the way, walk in it. [1]

The path along Hadrian’s Wall was opened about 30 years ago, but it is certainly not 30 years old. It is as old, or older, than the Wall itself, which was constructed over a period of 10 years beginning in AD 122. Since then thousands, if not millions, have walked the path as they traversed the width of England. Some of them have been quite ordinary people like me, or the shepherds and cow herders who tend the flocks and herds which have grazed the land for millennia. Some have been soldiers and warriors, kings and princes, like Bonnie Prince Charlie and Edward I, and the Emperor Hadrian himself. Others have been saints and pilgrims on their way to bring the good news of Jesus to those near and far, like Cuthbert and Aidan, Hilda and Audrey. Each one of us who have walked that path have simply followed where someone has gone before. That doesn’t mean the path is not in places steep, or difficult, or slippery, or even at times confusing. All it means it that someone has gone ahead saying, this is the way, walk in it.

November is a wonderful month in the Church’s calendar, full of feasts like All Saints’ and All Souls’, Martin, Margaret, Hugh, Hilda, Elizabeth and Andrew. All of them have walked this path before us, and by the holiness of their lives, they show us the path to God.

But like me on Hadrian’s Wall, they too followed others, and today we honour them: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Hagar, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and countless others, who have walked the path to God.

It doesn’t mean the path is not in places steep, or difficult, or slippery, or even at times confusing. What it does mean, is that there are others who have gone ahead to show us the way:  this is the way, walk in it.

We may not be able to see them, but here and there they have left a sign: a shoe or a boot abandoned in the muck, something they have dropped, a pile of stones, a depression in the grass, or a way marker inscribed with an arrow pointing the way, or simply the holiness of their lives.

For thousands of years our forebears in the faith have been following the path to God, and while they may be invisible to the eye, the path they walked stretches out ahead of us, beckoning us on, as we take our turn on this journey into the heart of God, and as we have followed, so others will follow us, looking for what we have left behind marking the way. It may be a shoe or a boot abandoned in the muck, something we have dropped, a pile of stones, a depression in the grass, or a way marker inscribed with an arrow pointing the way, or simply the holiness of our lives that tells those who follow us, this is the way, walk in it.

A path cannot exist unless someone has gone before, and others follow after, and each one of us leaves something behind to say, this is the way, walk in it.


[1] Isaiah 30: 21

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1 Comment

  1. Kathryn White on November 10, 2019 at 08:02

    We were often in awe of all those who went before as we walked parts of the Cotswold Way in September. Thank you for this treasure as I ponder what we now leave for those who come after us. Blessings.

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