"Eh? What's that? (Said the Professor) Yes, of course, you'll get back to Narnia again someday. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don't go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don't try to get there at all. It'll happen when you're not looking for it."
When we moved to Delaware almost four years ago, I felt like the Pevensie children leaving Narnia for the first time. I took my theology students through the wardrobe to help them relate to the coming of the Messiah, Paschal Mystery and Jesus Christ. The Chronicles of Narnia quickly became a vehicle for understanding central theological concepts and themes in all of the the courses I taught.
We looked at the nature of sin and forgiveness through Edmond's experience. We pondered the beauty of creation with Polly and Digory. Reepicheep was a model of discipleship for us to admire and emulate. Prince Caspian's journey to his rightful thrown gave us a parable for St. Paul's journey in forming the Church. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader helped us make faith sense of moments of consolation and desolation in our lives; we learned to increase virtues in order to fight vices.
To say that this experience changed me would be an understatement. I wrote about my teaching experience years ago. You can read it here. I was terrified when I began teaching until we journeyed through the wardrobe together. Then, I fell in love with teaching. I loved the adventures with my students. Perhaps they had an even greater impact on me than I had on them. I knew that God was calling me and our family to something new. I wondered if I would ever find myself back in Narnia.
A couple of weeks ago my daughter asked me; if I could read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was pleasantly surprised. My son showed interest and read many of the stories on his own. I happily agreed; suddenly, I felt like the Pevensie children waiting for the train in Prince Caspian. Much like the children in the story, 'school' would have to wait. I noticed the feelings that Edmund noticed and called to his siblings as they waited for the train: "All catch hands and keep together. This is magic - I can tell by the feeling".
Just like that, I was in Narnia again. This time, I was with my children; we were exploring the beauty of the mysterious wood and the conspicuous lampost that seemingly had a story of its own. We read a little each day and discussed Edmund's struggles. I asked them, as I asked my students years ago, "Who is Aslan? What do you think he is like?" They colored pictures of Aslan and illustrated other aspects of the story that captured their imagination. They sensed the beauty, virtues, and divine imagery in the story. They sensed as St. Ignatius invites us too in the Spiritual Exercises during Imaginative Prayer.
"Smell the divinity"(SE 124)
"Taste the virtues" (SE 124)
"Touch the places" (SE 125)
I was hesitant to read Aslan's journey to the stone table. I put it off for a few days. I decided to wait until after we prayed the Stations of the Cross with several children and families at our parish. After we got home together, we walked with Lucy and Susan as they accompanied Aslan to the top of the hill, his Calvery. I was surprised to see how courageously they responded to the feelings of despair that Aslan, Susan, and Lucy experienced. When prompted, they pointed out the details of Alsan's journey to the stone table that paralleled Jesus' journey to the cross.
It's hard to articulate what a joy it is to be back in Narnia. I posted on my social media page that "school would have to wait because we were in a wardrobe." A comment made under my post has been resonating with me ever since. She said: "Allowing them to ponder truth and beauty and goodness, the virtuous life, knowledge of the Creator; this is school." I could not agree more! "This is school!" Furthermore, it is a great consolation for me to see the wonder and awe in our children as we ponder truth, beauty, and goodness in The Chronicles of Narnia.
The professor's warning to the children not to go looking for a route back into Narnia speaks to a point St. Ignatius makes in his Rules for Discernment of Spirits. "It is not within our power to acquire and attain great devotion, intense love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation; but that all this is the gift and grace of God our Lord."
Consolation is a gift freely given to us. Years ago, I thought I was leaving Narnia for good; I lamented saying goodbye to a job where I felt God's presence and purpose for my life. I continue to learn that one of the beautiful aspects of consolation is that it is like falling into Narnia when you least expect it. "It'll happen when you're not looking for it."
A Prayer Guide For Parents
To schedule Spiritual Direction