“Castles in the Sky”

Who has visited the exquisite Biltmore Estates? If not there, what about a castle in Europe? We recently visited Biltmore Estates in North Carolina for the first time. It was a dream of our eleven year old since she finished a book series that took place there.

In my twenties, with two friends we experienced Europe via backpacking, hosteling and Eurorail. We stayed in a hostel on a mountaintop that happened to be in a castle. What an extraordinary view, soaking in the sites and the colors of the city beneath us. How incredible it was to rest my head on the pillow that night in a room in a castle rich in history.

It’s been three years since my brother and sister passed away suddenly. I have had time for prayer, soul searching and healing.

During an age in which culture seems to expect perfectionism, it’s been refreshing to focus on a different kind of ‘castle:’ a castle built on a mountain of love, constructed with virtues instead of wood.

Thirteen has always been my favorite number. Ironically, I recently realized there are 13 virtues that can help to build this beautifully constructed ‘castle’ in which I imagine will prayerfully transition me more towards the person God wants me to be.

Trying to practice these ‘building blocks’ is not always easy. I fail at times, yet these ‘materials’ seem so much stronger intertwined together so it’s worth great effort on my part. Honesty, patience, moderation, kindness, humility, courage, perseverance, compassion, hope, charity, generosity, wisdom, gentleness make up these ‘materials.’

How profoundly spiritual to be guided by God knowing that this is where true JOY lies. There are thirteen virtues which can empower us and guide us on a path of clarity so that our ‘castle’ is strong and can bear witness to whatever storms shall pass our way.

I believe it took four to five years to build the Biltmore. Its gardens are as glorious as the home itself, filled with a serenade of colors, textures, sounds, sizes of all sorts. It resembles us: some are strong and upright, reaching for the sun, and others more meek and mild. Their presence is more subtle in the garden, equally as important, just not making the ‘grand stand’ as their counterparts.

Our ‘castles’ may all be different and there may be much contrast in our ‘gardens,’ but through many trials and tribulations, a mountain of love is stronger than sand. The thirteen virtues are the building blocks in which Richard and I have faithfully tried to construct our ‘home’ or ‘castle.’ Again, there have been many successes and failures, for we have no perfections here.

And what about our children. Well, I can only pray that they feel the unconditional love and know through growing up in our home, that character is a gift, integrity is a treasure and God’s limitless love of us is what will carry them through this time on Earth and into eternity, with all of those who have gone before us.

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