A Worthy

I’m sure I had seen it before, but not since I left that city to move to Dallas. I was back, a day with an old friend, walking Broadway from the northern tip of Manhattan down to the Battery. It’s about 15 miles and we were in no hurry. We stopped in churches. We stopped in front of locked church doors. We dropped in on coffee places. We looked at the old rocky part of the north of the island, then the increasingly shaped land and lanes and buildings as the day progressed. We looked at the new Columbia buildings, gradually taking over many blocks. We went into a Jewish deli run by an Asian family. Now we were down at Madison Square Park.
    It’s an interesting monolith, with names of cities on bands around it as it narrows to the top. The places named are places where this soldier and officer fought. He was born in Hudson, New York, a city up north on the river. He served in the battle of 1812. And then he went to Texas.

    “This guy is yours,” my friend said. We wondered if he died in one of those battles. He fought against Mexico, yes, but turns out to have died not in battle but of cholera.

    There are very few places named after him. One is Worth Street, one of the narrow streets that twist around each other in the southern tip of the island. Another is a city to the west of Dallas.
    Thus the penny dropped. His name is William Jenkins Worth. And it turns out that the Worth Monument, which we were studying, is actually not in Madison Square Park but beside it, on a piece of land known as Worth Square. His monument is the second oldest in the city.
    Fifteen miles is roughly a day’s walk on a pilgrimage. What is it one is seeking when one goes off to walk? It’s of course a mystery, one which, I believe, is held in the palm of God’s hand. Part of the mystery is to revisit the past, to cycle back and try to understand, to revisit and to see what one never saw before.
    Eliot says that the end of our exploring is to arrive at the place we started from. This is cosmically true: Aquinas, for instance, moves in his Summa out from God and then back to God. That’s the structure of any created thing, or at least of those created things that do not reject God. God made me, and in the end I hope to return to see him face to face.
    I didn’t start in New York and who knows if I will end in Fort Worth, but man, I did step back into a previous part of my life and discover historical connections with my current life.
    The end of our journeying is to discover where we started, and to know it as if for the first time.
    Out & About. I am to preach at St. Paul’s in Prosper, Texas, on Sunday, June 27, at 8, 9, and 11 a.m. At 10 a.m. we’ll have a class, “Biblical Wisdom on Friendship.” Open to anyone who wants to come, of course. I recently learned that Prosper was the surname of an early pioneer in these parts. His first name? Victor. (This info thanks to Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters, who have a Victor Prosper blend.)

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."