Light the way

I was out on a Coast Guard Auxiliary mission one evening and was at the helm of our vessel. I’m not a captain, but all crew need to be able to run the vessel, so we are given the opportunity, by the captain, to take the wheel during various missions so that we can become more proficient at driving the vessel. 

The weather wasn’t great that night and the fog was settling in over the bay. If you have ever been in fog at sea, you know how disorienting it can be. Even with today’s electronics and radar, it is still scary out there as we find it difficult to give up our own senses to rely on the equipment and others. The crew took up their lookout stations and the captain stood beside me to help monitor the equipment. The flashing buoys, and ultimately the flashing strobe at Warwick Light, also gave comfort as they pointed the way and helped keep us in the proper channel as we headed back to dock. We were finally on the right course!

Sometimes, in our lives, we think we are on the right course, but we aren’t. Sometimes when we are on what we think is the right course, we are often unwilling to listen to others or to see things in a different way. If this were not true, how do we explain why many people who are on a destructive path, cannot see it? People in their lives tell them to “change your course,” and yet they still keep on the course until they run aground? 

I think a story I once heard may better make the point. The story is told of a captain of a battleship doing maneuvers. It was a dark, foggy night and off in the distance there is a light and his ship is moving towards this light, and it’s on a collision course. The captain tells the signalman to send a signal out, saying, “We are on a collision course. Alter course 20 degrees.” And a signal comes back, which says, “You alter course 20 degrees.” The captain of the battleship gets a little incensed at this and decides to pull rank and says, “I’m a captain. You alter course 20 degrees.” The response comes back, “I’m a seaman. You alter course 20 degrees.” The captain is now really furious and he says, “I’m in a battleship. You alter course 20 degrees.” The response comes back, “I’m in a lighthouse. You turn now!” 

So if you’re on a battleship heading toward a lighthouse, disaster obviously lies ahead of you if you don’t begin to see things differently — and not only will you go down if you don’t see things in a new way, but you’ll take the whole ship down with you. 

Fortunately for all of us there are many “lighthouses” in our lives. These “lighthouses” are placed at all of the dangerous areas of life to help us steer around them. However, if we are unable or unwilling to accept that the “lighthouse” is there to protect us from danger, we may very well, as the captain of the battleship did, ignore the warnings and sail a course that will ultimately lead to destruction and loss. God places those lighthouses out there to help us steer a safe course. But the lighthouse alone would not save the battleship. Electronics and radar alone won’t save a boat. It took “someone” to do that.

Many times we ignore the warnings and run aground. Sometimes we are able to get underway again and if we learned our lesson we can avoid other groundings in the future. If not, eventually we lose our way and ultimately sink. 

We see this around us every day. Some people make, what looks like, constant bad decisions over and over again! Drugs, greed and other vices may very well blind us to the dangers even though everyone knows that these are bad for you. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “Oh, yeah. I want to be a drug addict.” It’s only when we are on that path and don’t see the warning signs that we head on the wrong course and we’ve gone too far to steer out of the danger zone. We think we know what we are doing and we think we know the other light is another ship and we try to get them to change. It’s only when someone like the seaman states, “I’m in the lighthouse. You turn,” that perhaps we “wake up” and see where we are going and are able to steer clear. 

That “someone” or seaman is you and me. We are the seaman manning the lighthouse that God has placed out there to light the way. The lighthouse, on its own, wasn’t able to get the captain to change directions. It took the seaman doing something that got the captain to turn in a new direction. We are the ones who are called to help others steer the way around the dangers. We are called to be active Christians. We need to do something. We do that for our children and hopefully we do that for those around us. Sometimes they get the message and make the course correction and sometime they don’t and run aground. Hopefully, when they do go aground, someone is there to pluck them out of that sinking ship and that, too, is us! 

We all know we need to be there for one another. We need to help our fellow man discover the way. That Way is Jesus. Have we taken the challenge to be men and women for others to heart or do we just say, “Well, the lighthouses are out there, they can steer a course on their own without my help”? Easier, but not what is expected of us! Now, let’s get out there and help light the way!

Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, a youth minister at St. Dominic’s Parish in Swansea, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife of 35 years, Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and a five-month-old grandson. Comments, ideas or suggestions? Please email him at

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