In the same boat
This is touching but at the same time, it causes me to reflect on the meaning I give to accompanying groups on their pilgrimages. This always brings me to ask myself, “Why do I organize such experiences?”
For myself, a pilgrimage is a great adventure which allows me to meditate on the meaning of my own life and how my Faith is my inspiration.
We all carry important questions within. In this sense, we are all in the same boat; the boat of Life. Where is our boat going? Where are the winds bringing us? We often say how life goes by quickly. Time passes at break-neck speeds and we are often disoriented and pressured by that time. We are often unable to grasp where that time is heading. This is why a pilgrimage is extraordinary in helping us to stop and take some quality. Just as Jesus said to his friends, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert lace, and rest a while.” (Mark 6, 30-33)
A pilgrimage is a time that I give myself to go off to a quiet place and take some distance from the whirlpool of my daily life. I am not wasting time. Rather, I am freeing time. Certainly, we are resting physically, but also psychologically.
An example: During the time that we meditate on mount of the Beatitudes so that we may absorb the silence of this sacred mountain, where Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount, the essential teachings of his message, to his followers. All of this with the magnificent Sea of Gallilee lain out before us. During a silent walk where we have the time to reflect and meditate; on our lives and those close to us, on what affects us, what makes us suffer, what brings us to life… This time of rest and distance from our daily lives permits us to reset the gears in our hearts to the right time; that of balance, truth and love inside of ourselves.
In a society where the Day of our Lord (Sunday) has lost much of its meaning because we no longer take the time to rest as the Bible teaches us, it is desirable to find creative ways to take the time to submerge ourselves in the mystery of Life by setting aside a little time, from time-to-time.
A pilgrimage is more than a vacation. It is an experience of profound depth which opens places of light, truth, peace, joy and happiness inside our selves. With the aid of an experienced guide who respects every individual’s path, all can move at their own rhythm. No one is pressured. I can recall a man who claimed that he came to the Holy Land to please his wife. As the days passed, filled with visits of Holy sites and explications by our guide, he opened a little more each day; to something inside of him. His active participation allowed him to experience his pilgrimage for himself and changed himself forever.
During a pilgrimage, there is also time to pray and time for silence in some symbolic locations. An example would be the Eucharist celebration in the Shepherd’s Cave in Bethlehem. It seemed strange to sing Christmas hymns in February, let alone that we were conscious of the humidity and discomfort of this place where Marie likely gave birth to her Son. It matters not whether this was actually the historic place where Jesus was born, or not, because nothing resembles more a cave than another cave in this shepherd’s field. The thought touched us deeply and placed us in communion with our own frailties and neediness, wherein we must make a small place for the Lord in our own inner “cave”.
I will finish by telling you that a pilgrimage is a calling to visit the depths of ourselves and anyone can live this experience. It simply requires the decision to do so, to pick up your pligrim’s staff (walking stick) and to head for the land flowing with milk and honey.
Daniel Gilbert, Priest in the diocese of Sherbrooke, spiritual guide for the The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land and Priest-guide for Spiritours.