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What Mount Everest Can Teach Us About God

ABOVE: Mount Everest as seen from Tingri, Tibet [Joe Hastings/CC BY 2.0].

“Mountaineering … can be a school for the maturation of strong human personalities, who learn from it mutual and generous help, continuous physical and moral training, solidarity, the spirit of service, fraternity. But this school can and must also be a valid aid for an authentic Christian formation — awakening the need for the infinite that is in the human soul, and awakening a clearer awareness of the immensity and omnipotence of God.” —Pope St. Paul VI, Address to Italian Expedition to Mount Everest, June 27, 1973

Amid the chaos of social unrest and a prolonged pandemic, it may seem as if the future is bleak. But it is not only possible to stay afloat — it is possible to thrive in society’s new normal.

In the spiritual life there is no treading water. Our souls are either growing stronger or becoming weaker. Therefore Catholics should not only strive to grow stronger during this tumultuous time, we should aim to ascend the heights of holiness. There are a few simple, concrete steps we may take to cultivate prayer and virtue amid the storms of life.

Last year National Geographic commissioned an expedition to uncover one of the long-lost mysteries of Mount Everest. The magazine has dedicated a documentary, Lost On Everest, and two separate issues of its magazine to confirming which explorers — George Mallory and Sandy Irvine in 1924, or Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 — were the first to climb the world’s highest mountain peak. Mount Everest is a source of wonder — some people call it “the roof of the world,” suggesting that the summit of Everest is where heaven literally meets earth. Adventurers flock to Everest and risk their lives to claim the glory of reaching the summit. Conquering Everest is not only about a physical challenge — it also about experiencing breath-taking beauty first hand.

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