We have all heard it said that once learned, one never forgets how to ride a bike.

One might never forget, but one can lose some of the skills that make riding easier.

I had not ridden a bike in years. Many years. Then I needed to try to ride again. Here's what happened.

Morning Mass at St. Michael's in Aurora is at 6:00 and a ten minute speed walk from the house. Because of circumstances outside my control, I generally was partly running, partly walking as fast I could up the steep hill to the church. Sometimes I was not even leaving from the house until after Mass was scheduled to start. Making it in time for the Gospel was a victory. Then, during a running segment of my trip, I messed up my leg – pulled a muscle or something. Anyway, it was a little painful to walk and impossible to run. I was facing not being able to make it to morning Mass again.

So I decided to see if riding a bike would be possible, hoping that a different set of muscles would be involved.

Even though it had been a long time since I had been on a bike, I was able to hop on and try it out – a little shaky at the start for sure, but not catastrophically. And it was pain free.

The following morning, I got ready for my first trip to St. Michael's on a bike. It went OK. The problem was the return trip – the downhill part. I found that speed terrified me. I was braking constantly, going as slowly as I could downhill. I would try to be brave and let up on the brake for a little bit, but almost instantly I was back gripping it tightly, slowing myself down to a crawl.

I also found that I had to keep both hands on the handlebars. Someone I know came from the other direction in a car, and I couldn't let go even for a brief wave. I nodded.

I was so not enjoying the downhill trek, that when my leg healed enough, I took to walking the bike all the way home. This seemed ridiculous.

One day after Mass, another guy who bikes to Mass was just getting on his bike, so I decided to hop on mine. We rode together through the parking lot to the main road chit chatting. I told him that I was afraid of hills. He laughed. I don't know if his laugh was some sort of inspiration to me, but after that I started riding home each day, and it wasn't long before the ride home became enjoyable.

I'm not setting speed records, but I now find the downhill thrilling, especially in the cool morning air we have had this August. The trip now seems way too short. It's so short that if Father Riley is saying the Mass I can make it back home by 6:30.

All the above leads to this. The Kellys (Mairin Scheetz's family) had told me years ago about a little devotion their family practices as someone gets ready to leave the house. They say I-N-R-I JESUS OF NAZARTH, KING OF THE JEWS, SAVE US FROM SUDDEN AND UNPROVIDED FOR DEATH. As they say the letters from the cross, they mark their foreheads with the INRI. There is a saint who promoted this devotion – don't remember who that saint is.

I used to say and do this devotion each time I got in a car to drive. Since I haven't driven hardly at all in the last three years, I wasn't using the devotion. But when I realized how poor my bike riding was at my new beginning, the devotion came back to mind, and I was back using it regularly.

Now, I can even lift my hand from the handlebars to make the INRI on my forehead!


Jezu, ufam Tobie.