Spiritual survival and wilderness survival – True Survivor has it all! This is an outstanding initiative which gives us a rich look at the ways that our faith can survive and flourish in the midst of the struggles that we may encounter in today’s world. It does this by taking us deep into the wilderness to discover what we will need to survive in such a harsh environment!
In the video below, founder of True Survivor Will Hince speaks about the four essential elements of both wilderness survival and spiritual survival.
We’ve asked him to share with Catholic Link why these elements are so essential to our survival…
Water is essential for survival. The average person can last about 3 weeks without food, but for only 3 days without water. In most survival situations water will be our number one priority.
Prayer is to our souls what water is to our bodies. St John Chrysostom said that “As the body without the soul cannot live, so the soul without prayer is dead”.
Our divine life is a living relationship with God, and like any relationship, love only grows when you spend time together – we spend time with God in prayer.
Prayer is not just essential to this relationship; the Church tells us that this relationship is prayer – CCC 2558. Water is essential for our bodies, not just because it sustains us, but because we are made up of it as well. In the same way, prayer does not simply sustain our life in Christ – it makes up our life in Christ.
Prayer is the most important element for true survival, and if we are serious about living our faith, we must make prayer our number one priority.
In many wilderness survival situations, fire is the key to coming out alive.
Fire gives us warmth, a way to dry clothing and kit, a way to purify water, a way to cook and preserve food, a way to signal for help; fire gives us light, allows us to make things like charcoal or charcloth, and it restores morale!
Saint Gregory said that “the altars of God are our hearts, where he desires that the fire of his divine love should always be burning.”
But sometimes we fall into sin. And when we sin, our hearts can lose that fire – especially if we don’t act immediately. Like a fire, our love for God can cool & eventually go out.
If you’ve ever seen a glass placed over a flame, you’ll see the flame get smaller and smaller and then go out completely. This is the fire being starved of oxygen. Sin does the same thing to the fire of God’s love which burns in our hearts. The flames of love die down. The embers burn out, and eventually where there was once warmth, there is coldness. Perhaps, when we’ve gone far enough, we won’t even feel it anymore, like a sort of spiritual hypothermia.
Like hypothermia, spiritual hypothermia is very dangerous, and we have to act immediately.
In the wild, everything stops. Treating hypothermia becomes your number one priority. You have to get a fire going. We should treat sin, particularly mortal sin with the same seriousness and sense of urgency.
The fire that we need in our souls is the fire of God’s mercy, given to us in the sacrament of Confession. In a spiritually cold world, we should have constant recourse to this great Sacrament, making it a regular part of our lives.
In a long term survival situation, we need to find a source of food. Without food we become weak, and eventually, we will die. It’s even more dangerous in a wilderness survival situation because we will constantly be draining our energy reserves. Whether through trapping, fishing, foraging or hunting, we need to find a source of food to keep us strong. Food nourishes us sustains us, and helps us, to grow.
The Eucharist is our spiritual food: It nourishes us and it sustains us. St Alphonsus Liguori said that “as earthly bread sustains the life of the body, so this heavenly bread sustains the life of the soul.”
There is nothing that Jesus has not done to win our hearts. The two greatest examples of this are on the cross, where Jesus shows us His love, and in the Eucharist, where Jesus gives us his love. This is because, in the Eucharist, we receive Our Lord completely. He gives us everything that he is; His body, His blood, His soul, and His divinity. If Jesus is God, and God is love, then in the Eucharist we receive the fullness of Jesus’ love, because we receive the fullness of Jesus himself.
The Eucharist is so important to our spiritual life. Our Lord tells us that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.” – John 6:56. The Eucharist is the source and the summit of the Christian life, and the ultimate way that we enter into God’s life. We should go to Mass often, and make time to visit Our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.
In the wilderness, environmental conditions can threaten our well-being and even our lives.
Rain, snow, wind, sun… Even just exposure to extreme cold or extreme heat can lead to death within a matter of hours. Other factors can make it even more dangerous: If you’re already wet and the temperature drops below freezing. Or if you’re dehydrated and the temperature soars.
Shelter protects us from the environment, and it also gives us a place to rest, to regain our strength, and to restore our morale.
On our spiritual journey, we need the strong shelter of the Church. Without it, we find ourselves cut off from God, who chose to be one with us through the Church. If we love Jesus, we are called to have the same love for his Church, for as a bride and groom become one, so the Church becomes one with her Lord. This is why the Church is called the Body of Christ.
Our relationship with Christ is lived out as a part of the Church, his bride. This is how we become one with him. We cannot say that we do not need the Church to follow Jesus – it’s nonsense to think that we can separate the Church from Christ!
“Jesus Christ loves the Church as a bridegroom loves his bride. He binds himself to her forever and gives his life for her.” – Youcat 127. We need the Church, and the Church needs us!
To survive in the wild, it’s not enough to just know the theory of wilderness survival. We have to get out there and put into practice what we learn. It’s the same with spiritual survival. We have to go beyond the theory!
We need to discover these elements of true survival in our lives: the living water of prayer, the fire of God’s mercy, our spiritual food which is the Eucharist, and the strong shelter of the Church. These elements will equip us, through God’s grace, to go out into the world strong in faith; keeping the fire of God’s love burning fiercely in our hearts, and allowing the fire of our faith to ignite the hearts of others.
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