My Shoes

Courtesy of the author,

In the first eight lines of his poem, God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins describes how human beings have mucked up our world and how because of wearing shoes they are even unable to be in contact with our God: “the soil/ Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.”

As a child during the early summer months, I went barefoot.  The gravel was painful at first but soon my feet toughened up.  Nevertheless I quickly concluded that I rather liked being ‘shod’.   I remember singing a little ditty about shoes learned from a media presentation on radio broadcast for rural schools: “my new shoes shine like everything and squeak squeak, squeak, when I walk.”

I have always been grateful for shoes, even the red sandals my mother put on my four year old feet.  I bravely sported them to Sunday Mass at St Paul’s Parish Church in Vibank, Saskatchewan in 1947,  staring down my peers’ silent criticism.  Later I discovered that Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz had red shoes, that Han Christian Anderson had written a good story, The Red Shoes, and that Popes always wore red shoes until Pope Francis decided to wear his black shoes because they housed his orthotics!  Little did I know what company I kept wearing those sandals!   Yes,

I’ve always liked shoes.  Boots not so much, especially felt boots.  My mother indulged me once when I was grade 11 in boarding school at Campion College in Regina purchasing for me a beautiful light leather pair.  They were the only shoes I ever literally wore out! In my elder years I have become partial to footwear without laces.

For years now I only put on slip-ons that do not have to be ‘broken in’.  And for many years now, my sister in Alberta has supplied me with just such black shoes for winter, a heavy Roper brand, with solid traction, warm, wearable indoors as well as outdoors.

Even today I treasure my light brown pair of summer Ropers because of where they’ve been: they have been to Ephesus in Turkey where Mary and St John lived two thousand years ago; they entered Mary’s house there; they stepped close to the place where the Angel Gabriel asked that momentous question of Mary; they were in Bethlehem near the place where Jesus was born, at the Jordan River where Jesus was baptised, at the Sea of Galilea on which He walked and where He taught from a boat,  near the place of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, at the Garden of Olives, and even where Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.

These brown shoes trod places where God literally walked on our earth.  I look at them; I wonder at their history.  They keep me in touch with the Jesus, son of Mary and Son of God.  Great shoes!  I hope I never wear them out.

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

  • Sidney Shapira
    Posted at 10:12h, 07 June Reply

    You could write a new version of ” These boots were made for walking.” What a beautiful piece this is! I was very interested in all of the places these shoes have taken you. May they continue to provide comfort and support, both ohysically and spiritually.

  • Johnston Smith
    Posted at 10:21h, 07 June Reply

    Well grounded!

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 11:53h, 07 June Reply

    Thank you Frank!

  • Barbara French
    Posted at 14:19h, 07 June Reply

    I have also walked those places in the holy land! Such a life changing experience. You enhance the recollection with the “relationship” with your shoes. Thank you!

  • Matt Herriot
    Posted at 18:55h, 07 June Reply

    Great and touching story. Such amazing places to visit.
    Sidney, I agree completely.

  • Suzanne renaud
    Posted at 21:10h, 07 June Reply

    Lovely history of your memorable shoes! Thank you!

  • Jerry Herauf
    Posted at 09:13h, 08 June Reply

    An amazing walk with you, this morning, Frank, from your country home (an experience I shared with you since I grew up on the farm next door) to the Holy Land! Much to remember and ponder here! Thanks for sharing! Jerry

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