Recently I had occasion to meet up with some folks with whom I had travelled to the Holy Land on pilgrimage.
Going on pilgrimage is one of life’s great enrichers. For those who can, please do!
One of the new perspectives pilgrims are indelibly marked by is “once a pilgrim; always a pilgrim.” The fruits of the pilgrimage experience keep growing, long after the airplane food has been digested.
Funnily enough, when I was chatting with my fellow pilgrims, we didn’t just remember the vivid sensation of walking in the steps of our Blessed Lord, we spoke mostly about some of the hardships we bore; now laughing about them, of course.
To be sure, the hardships barely compare to those suffered by pilgrims who lived in lawless times and prior to modern transportation. But hardships they nonetheless were.
Pilgrimage means a walk into the Passion of Christ
Which brings me to a second perspective of pilgrimage: every pilgrimage is a walk into the Passion of Christ.
The discussion reminded me of another pilgrimage; this time at WYD 2016 in Krakow, Poland. Every WYD culminates in the Saturday vigil adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and Sunday Mass the next morning with the Holy Father.
Most people think of Poland as a cold place, but I can assure you that it was hot. Most of my time at the vigil and Mass was spent organisng transport for exhausted, sick and heat-struck pilgrims.
With Mass complete, the long walk back to town began. After ensuring that all of our small groups were on their way, I made my own way, but became separated from others in my pilgrimage.
It did not take long for me to realise that I was beginning to succumb to the heat myself.
I willed myself on for some time. But, in the end, I swallowed my pride and sat down by propping myself next to a fence on the side of the road. I was really out of it by this stage and poured most of the water I had onto my head.
Unexpected help along the way
I must have looked a fright because some Italians rushed up enquiring if I was ok, to which I jokingly asked them what the Italian word for defibrillator is. I reassured them and they cheerily moved on.
Almost immediately, a young American fellow, strangely on his own, motioned to something behind the fence and asked whether it was an apple tree. To which I replied, “I don’t know, what does an apple tree look like?”
Okay, I was a bit surly. In the event, he reached up to the tree, pulled off two apples, offered me one and he ate the other.
I’ve never eaten an apple like it, neither before nor since. It gave me all the energy I needed to get to my feet and finish the walk back to town. Actually, I felt great.
When I turned to speak to the young pilgrim, he had disappeared.
Pilgrim journey towards Heaven
And so to a third perspective of pilgrimage, God touches pilgrims in a singular, definitive way.
Pilgrimage plunges us into the tomb of our pride, addictions and doubts. As we are laid bare, our Father tenderly scoops us up, heals our wounds and unites us to His Son in the love of the Holy Spirit.
The Church teaches that pilgrimages “evoke our earthly pilgrimage toward heaven” (CCC#2691).
May God our Father scoop you up each day as you journey on the path that leads to the narrow gate.
Did you know Parousia and Harvest Journeys has teamed up for a Pilgrimage hosted with Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers! Join us!
Have you entered into a pilgrim journey?