Making Disciples is a Hit!
This summer saw the maiden voyage of a new Institute offering: Making DIsciples. Here are the reviews, along with information regarding another opportunity for formation for your parish.
The Cost of Love
Sherry reflects on the ten years of the Catherine of Siena Institute's existence. The joy of discerning charisms and vocation are accompanied by the inevitable suffering that accompanies a significant work of love, whether that is raising a child, or responding to Jesus' invitation to "come, follow me."
The Way of the Pilgrim
E-mails from a woman following the ancient pilgrimage route to Compostela, Spain, prompt Fr. Mike to reflect upon our own pilgrimage through life.
Steve Bigari of Colorado Springs, CO, learned as an owner that many employees in the service industry are living in poverty. America's Family harnesses the power of unparalleled
collaboration between the private, non-profit, and public sectors as a model to change America using free enterprise, innovation, capitalization, and entrepreneurship to eradicate poverty for working Americans.
National Fellowship of Catholic Men
Visit the blog of NFCM, who describe themselves as "Catholic Men, Linked as Brothers in Jesus Christ, and Called to Bring Him to Others.” Through large conferences and small fellowship groups they encourage a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and mutual support between men to deepen the life of faith, strengthen marriage and family life, and promote the intentional living of faith in the parish and the workplace.
Web Gallery of Art
The Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum and searchable database of European painting and sculpture of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods (1100-1850), currently containing over 17.300 reproductions. Commentaries on pictures, biographies of artists are available. Guided tours, free postcard and other services are provided for the visitors. Much of the art is Christian, naturally!
This is a workshop for pastors, parish staff, and other lay leaders who would like to explore how to foster a culture of intentional discipleship and discernment in their parishes. The formation provided will help participants learn how to evangelize parishioners who will then worship, pray, give, study their faith, and discern God's call for them out of a loving relationship with Christ.
Cost for either venue:
Commuter (training + meals only) $545 per person
On-site (training, room + meals) $695 per person
For information or to make reservations, contact Mike Dillon at the Institute office.
November 4-8, 2007
Sunday evening through Thursday noon.
Location: Loyola Retreat Center. Enjoy the splendor of autumn color in scenic Maryland, 35 miles south of the Washington, D.C. metro area. There are 235 acres of woodlands laced with numerous paths for all to enjoy. With its woods, riverfront beach, and the spectacular sunsets over the Potomac, Loyola has offered thousands of retreatants the opportunity and means of experiencing the joy and serenity of God's presence. Please note that this is a change of venue, but the same dates, for this workshop.
September 28-29, 2007
Colorado Springs, CO
(Diocese of Colorado Springs)
The 2007 Diocese of Colorado Springs Ministry Conference: "Encountering the Living Christ" will be held at the Colorado Springs Sheraton Hotel, 2886 S. Circle Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80906; (719) 576-5900.
Sherry A. Weddell, co-Founder and co-Director of the Catherine of Siena Institute, will make two presentations - on Friday at 2:00 p.m. and on Saturday at 9:45 a.m.
CONTACT: Mike Dillon at 888-878-6789 (toll-free), or via e-mail.
October 11, 2007
(Archdiocese of Denver)
Administration Building at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization
A presentation on the practical art of discernment to the Directors of Religious Education (DREs) of the Archdiocese of Denver by Sherry Weddell, co-Director of the Catherine of Siena Institute.
The JPII center is located at 1300 S. Steele St, Denver CO
CONTACT: Mike Dillon at 888-878-6789 (toll-free), or via e-mail.
October 24, 2007
(Archdiocese of Detroit) Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Sherry Weddell will speak on the role of charisms in the mission of evangelization to students in the MA & STL programs in the New Evangelization.
November 10, 2007
Fort Valley, VA
(Archdiocese of Washington, DC)
Village of Mt. Zion Retreat Center
For Such a Time as This: How to Find and Live God's Purpose for Your Life.
A day devoted to the practical art of discernment with Sherry Weddell, co-Director of the Catherine of Siena Institute. This event is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington Office of Young Adult Ministry.
CONTACT: Christa Lopiccolo, Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Washington, at 301-853-4559; or email@example.com
January 7-10, 2008
Menlo Park , CA
(Diocese of San Jose, CA)
Western Dominican Province Parish Ministry Conference, 250 Oak Grove Ave.
Fr. Mike and Sherry will be giving a workshop on intentional discipleship and the identification of stages of spiritual development.
Mike Dillon at 888-878-6789 (toll-free), or via e-mail.
| Called & Gifted Workshops
September 14-15, 2007
(Diocese of Toledo)
St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church
CONTACT: Bill Hupp or the Parish Office at (419) 874-4559.
(Archdiocese of Denver)
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church
CONTACT: Mary Vulcani or the Parish Office at (303) 233-6236.
(Archdiocese of Chicago)
St. Joseph Catholic Church
CONTACT: Sue Lehocky, Stewardship Director, or the Parish Office at (847) 362-2073 x212.
September 21-22, 2007
(Diocese of Charleston)
St. Mary Catholic Church
CONTACT: Kate Tierney at (864) 234-2471 or by e-mail.
Santa Clarita, CA
(Archdiocese of Los Angeles)
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church
CONTACT: Bobby Vidal, Director of Religious Education, or the Parish Office at (661) 296-3723.
September 28-29, 2007
Ham Lake, MN
(Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis)
St. Paul Catholic Church
CONTACT: Julie Taube, Pastoral Coordinator, or the Parish Office at (763) 757-6910.
October 5-6, 2007
(Diocese of Tyler)
St. Mary Catholic Church
CONTACT: Melinda Dunn or the Parish Office at (903) 757-5855.
(Archdiocese of Seattle)
St. Michael Catholic Church
CONTACT: Kathleen Wright, Steward for Time, Talent and Evangelization, or the Parish Office at (360) 754-4667 x115.
October 19-20, 2007
(Diocese of Orange)
Workshop for the Diocese of Orange
CONTACT: Nancy Hardy, Director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange, at (714) 282-3062.
November 9-10, 2007
Woodland Hills , CA
(Archdiocese of Los Angeles)
St. Bernardine Catholic Church
CONTACT: the Parish office at (818) 888-8200.
(Archdiocese of Portland)
St. Thomas More Catholic Church
CONTACT: Corinne Lopez, Director of Faith Formation, or the Newman Center Office at (541) 343-7021 ext 23.
Learn how to help others (as individuals or in small groups) to discern their charisms.
* Basic listening skills and spiritual maturity (best if practicing Christian for 2 years prior)
* Must have attended live Called & Gifted workshop or listened to CDs or audio tapes, took Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory, did some personal discernment, had a one-on-one personal Gifts Interview.
October 5-6, 2007
(Archdiocese of Seattle)
St. Brendan Catholic Church
CONTACT: Patt Reade, Pastoral Associate for Community Development at St Brendan parish at (425) 483-9400.
The Catherine of Siena Institute is a religious non-profit with 501C-3 status. We receive no financial support from any diocese or from the Western Dominican Province, but are entirely self-supporting. Your donations and gifts-in-kind are essential to our ongoing operations.
Please consider participating in planned giving with the Catherine of Siena Institute. As you write your plan for the future help us expand our efforts in the formation of intentional lay disciples.
To learn how you can help us, please contact our Development Officer, Mr. George Martelon at (303) 847-7052.
Once again, thank you to Anna Elias-Cesnik and Patricia Mees Armstrong for their help in editing this edition of the e-Scribe. Please keep Patricia in your prayers as she continues to battle against cancer. Fr. Paul Wicker always leaves the door of his home to Fr. Mike when he's in Colorado Springs. Col.Liz Anderson continues to let Fr. Mike to use Lazarus, her second car, while he's in the Springs.
Making Disciples is a Hit!
by Fr. Michael Fones, OP, Co-Director, Catherine of Siena Institute
Our first presentation of the four-day workshop, Making Disciples, was a great success! Blending the typical Catherine of Siena Institute penchant for solid theology and Magisterial teaching with plenty of time for discussion, prayer, reflection and the practical application of an "evangelical conversation," was a winning formula. People came from twenty-two U.S. and Australian dioceses, seemed to grasp the ideas quickly, and were very excited by the implications for their pastoral ministry.
Here are a few of the comments we received in an evaluation:
"The concept of intentional discipleship is absolutely exciting!! The team did a great job presenting, explaining, equipping, motivating, modeling it. THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH! I will never forget this 5 day experience!!! It has changed my life."
"The conference truly lived up to and surpassed my deepest expectations."
"This was a life-changing experience for me. I don't think I have ever gone through a program where I have taken back so much.
Cost of program: $ 5xx.xxx
Airfare: $ 4xx.xx
Taxis: $ 60.00
Program content: Priceless."
There is still time to register for the next Making Disciples workshop in Falkner, MD, November 4-8, 2007. We hope you'll join us!
Lent will be here before you know it, with Ash Wednesday falling on February 6, 2008! If your parish is looking for some parish renewal and formation through a Lenten mission, please consider inviting me, Fr. Mike, to be your parish's, "retreat master" for a three- or four-day mission. Drawing upon scripture and stories from my own life, I will reflect with your community on the nature of intentional discipleship. For more information about missions, please call the Institute office at (888) 878-6789 (toll-free), and ask for Mike Dillon.
The Cost of Love
by Sherry Weddell, Co-Director, Catherine of Siena Institute
It has been a wonderfully rich and fruitful summer for the Institute and for me personally, and God has blessed every endeavor tremendously. I am so glad that we did it all, but it has also been totally absorbing, stretching, and very hard work. In the midst of all the hubbub, I have been meditating on a subject that I’m going to try and put into words.
I’ll start with a conversation about the Called & Gifted gifts discernment process that recently went on at Koinonia, a weblog run by Fr. Gregory Jensen, a remarkable Greek Orthodox priest who is extremely interested in our work and will be attending the Perrysburg, Ohio Called & Gifted. Fr. Gregory commented about how he was looking forward to the workshop and found the whole concept of facilitating the discernment of charisms exciting.
One of his readers, Chrys, responded:
The workshop appears, as you say, intriguing. Having considerable experience in both the Charismatic and Church Growth movements (during my Protestant days), some of it looks familiar - and is vital to a fully functioning church. My only caveat is the distorted manner in which we tend to take up our "mission." Soooooo often (o.k., almost always) people became identified with their mission; the ego wrapped up in their special gift. Always glad to have people involved, but invariably their faith and their function became confused. (I was hardly exempt, lest it appear otherwise.) The offering becomes tied up with the sense of self and the validation of our value to God. I'd be curious to see if they address this.
I responded to Fr. Gregory and Chrys:
Well, Chrys - yes and no - based upon my experience of 14 years helping 27,000 Catholics around the world discern. What you describe is a very common occurrence in the *early* stages of discernment and of the spiritual life. It is so common that I always address it at every workshop I teach. I describe it as "the temptation to use our gifts to meet our own needs."
Since charisms are always for OTHERS, as we emphasize over and over, conducting under-the-table negotiations (I'll give you my gift and in exchange, I expect you to do X for me) or "tax-collecting" is a distortion. But misusing a gift does not invalidate its proper use, as St. Irenaeus observed in the second century.
The solution is not to cease to value and discern the gifts, but to acknowledge this very real and nearly universal phenomena which is corrected as we grow in trust of God and in the discipline of detachment. That is why discernment should be conducted within the Christian community, where these sorts of common spiritual issues can be dealt with in a straight-forward and compassionate manner.
I have not found that the exercise of charisms and prayer or spiritual disciplines are at all at odds with one another. That's because accepting the charisms we have been given for the sake of others is a very demanding form of self-giving - of asceticism, if you will.
All vocations and all gifts, however wonderful and divinely empowered, demand sustained sacrifice and growing dependence upon God to bear fruit. They always involve saying, "no" to other good things. Many of us don't think long and hard enough about the cost of bringing any work of love to completion in a fallen world. To answer the life-long call for the sake of others that comes with a charism is both joyful beyond words and very demanding.
Perhaps it is because the Institute just celebrated her tenth anniversary that I have been meditating upon the experience of the seventeen years that have passed since I received my call. My conclusion would have to be Dickensian: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. You can hardly put into words how astonishing, fulfilling, fruitful, and graced a journey it has been overall, or how demanding, relentless, exhausting, and heart-breaking large parts of it have been. People are sometimes surprised that I don't answer with simple one word enthusiasm when asked how I'm doing. That's because "good" or "fine" doesn't begin to cover the waterfront.
In this, I don't imagine that I am different from most Christian adults in mid-life; maxed out and overwhelmed by commitments and vocation(s) (most of us have more than one vocation or work of love to which we are called). It is always infinitely more complicated and cross-grained, actually, to live a vocation, than to dream about it or even say, "yes" to it at the beginning. How many of us begin to withdraw our, "yes" in small or large ways when the inevitable suffering associated with any significant work of love begins to rear its ugly head? How many of us feel that there is something wrong with us, with our discernment, with our situation, with our faith, when the price of love in a fallen world comes due? ( I am not speaking here of the sort of suffering which is not an intrinsic part of our vocation(s) and should move us to appropriate change.)
Rolland and Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries are intimately familiar with this reality. In 1995, the Bakers, who both have PhDs in theology, moved to Mozambique – the poorest country on earth. They were offered a crumbling orphanage by the government, but no other support. The Bakers took it and 10 years later they care for over 6,000 orphans. In their spare time, they have planted over 6,000 congregations among the poor in ten African nations.
Rolland wrote movingly on their website of their personal and spiritual poverty in the face of the staggering challenges of their call:
Our four years in Pemba have been tumultuous, intense, filled with demonic attacks, violence, threats, opposition from the government, discouragement, theft, loss, disappointments, failures, staff turnover, and the constant, unrelenting demands of extreme poverty and disease all around us. It almost always seemed that our capabilities and resources were no match for the challenges we faced every day, resulting in a level of chaos and stress that literally threatened our health and lives. Intense witchcraft and a lack of exposure to familiar standards of right and wrong made our work in this very remote part of the world seem all the more impossible. Heidi and I remember many times when we did not know how we could continue, often wondering if we really had good, lasting fruit that was worth the sacrifice.
We are often asked what the overcoming key to our ministry and growth is. We don't think in terms of keys or secrets, but in the simplest truths of the Gospel. We have learned by experience that there is no way forward when pressed to our extremities but to sacrifice ourselves at every turn for His sake, knowing nothing but Jesus and Him crucified. We must die to live. It is better to give than to receive, and better to love than to be loved. We cannot lose, because we have a perfect Savior who is able to finish what He began in us, if we do not give up and throw away our faith.
In years past we did not think we could identify with Paul like this, but now we understand more of what he meant: "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead" (2 Cor. 1:8-9).
A witness to a presentation by Heidi Baker in Toronto summed up her message this way:
She took the passage of the angel Gabriel's message to Mary and preached on the inherent difficulty of carrying God's call on your life to its completion. Using illustrations from her own life and ministry, she effectively made the point that God's calling is neither easy nor comfort-laden but is filled with great difficulty and the humanly impossible. Thus it is a burden which God asks you to carry, a seed which he places within you which you must then carry and nurture to its completion regardless of the cost to you, your relationships or your reputation. When the Holy Spirit overshadows you (or Mary or I), and places within you the seed of God's Word for your life, you can bet that the cost and inconvenience will be significant and that the path to its completion will require utter reliance upon Him.
Coming to the point of actually hearing the Holy Spirit's (specific) Word for your (specific) life is a very important journey in itself. But once that (specific) Word is received an entirely new journey begins. And that journey promises to be the most difficult and exhilarating of any you can possibly take in your lifetime. It is the journey toward utter reliance upon the power of God and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit's ministry to others through that dependence. (Heidi Baker "Pressing into His Presence," Frontline News, Naperville, IL - April 15-17, 2005)
Most lay Catholics, in my experience, regard this sort of language and life experience as “Protestant,” or at best, only for saints. But aspiring to great things for God and others is for all the baptized and a great virtue in Catholic understanding. As I wrote in The Disciples of Hope in the Siena Scribe back in 2003:
Magnanimity is the aspiration of the spirit to great things. St. Thomas Aquinas called it the “jewel of all the virtues” because the magnanimous person has the courage to seek out what is great and become worthy of it. Magnanimity is rooted in assurance of the highest possibilities of our God-given human nature.
When I first encountered the idea that “aspiring to greatness” was a Christian virtue, I had difficulty taking it in. Aren’t Christians supposed to be humble and to avoid trying to be something special, to minimize and even belittle our abilities and achievements, to avoid ambition, and to prefer anonymity? Even the idea of having charisms distresses some Catholics. Believing that God might do something really important and supernatural through them somehow seems to lack humility. One 84-year-old Scot told me in his lilting brogue, “I couldn’t have charisms; it wouldn’t be humble!”
To allay such fears, we can recognize that humility is magnanimity’s necessary partner, the attitude before God that recognizes and fully accepts our creaturehood and the immeasurable distance between the Creator and his creation. But neither does humility stand alone: without magnanimity, we don’t see the whole of our dignity as human beings. Magnanimity and humility together enable us to keep our balance, to arrive at our proper worth before God, to persist in living our secular mission, and to persevere in seeking our eternal destiny despite apparent frustration and failure.
Magnanimity empowers us to aspire to whatever remarkable vocation to which God calls us, but the virtue of fortitude ensures that we finish the journey well. As Fr. John Hardon, SJ put it:
Fortitude is "the important commodity of enabling us to carry to successful conclusion the most difficult tasks that are undertaken in the service of God. There are two forms of courage implied in this gift of fortitude: the gift to undertake arduous tasks and the gift to endure long and trying difficulties for the divine glory."
At every Called & Gifted workshop, I quote Venerable John Henry Newman’s words:
“God has determined . . . that I should reach that which will be my greatest happiness. He looks on me individually, he calls me by my name. He knows what I can do, what I can best be, what is my greatest happiness and he means to give it to me.”
I believe that statement of faith, as did Newman. But the journey to that greatest happiness outside the Garden always requires the Holy Spirit’s gifts of magnanimity and fortitude, no matter how blessed or apparently awful our unique journey may seem to outsiders.
When I encounter adult Catholics who seem strangely unmarked by the existential cost of love and mission, I can’t help but wonder if they are in a state of arrested spiritual or personal development. Have they truly said, “yes” to Christ? Have they truly said, “yes” to the loves and calls that God has given them? At the heart of every life-long, God-given vocation is the same mystery of love, joy, and pain that Christ himself embraced:
‘For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.’ (Hebrews 12:2)
The Way of the Pilgrim
by Fr. Michael Fones, OP, Co-Director of the Catherine of Siena Institute
This month a friend of mine from Eugene, Oregon and her daughter are hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. That's right, this month. Sally is my age (late forties) and a grandmother, while Emily is in her early twenties, and their journey will take them across the northern edge of Spain, from the Pyrenees to the ancient shrine in honor of St. James in Compostela. According to my calculations, it's a journey of some 450 miles! At the completion of almost each day, Sally sends an e-mail to her friends across this country who are praying for her and her daughter.
They are certainly not the first to make this trek. In fact, a number of caminos, or pilgrimage routes, crossed western Europe and led to the soaring cathedral in Compostela, long famous for containing the shrine and relics of St. James the Greater. Since the eighth century, pilgrims have undertaken the arduous march to the shrine, returning home with one of the scallop shells of Galicia as proof of the completion of the journey. The ebb and flow of as many as 500,000 pilgrims walking across Europe to sites like Compostela, Rome, Walsingham, England, and Cologne, Germany profoundly changed the face of Europe. The opportunity to provide food and shelter for them were catalysts to the development of towns, roads, and even religious orders founded to care for the wayfarers.
Sally wrote, When we approached our resting place for the night I thought of how gracious all of our hosts at the hostels are. They sign us in, stamp our pilgrim passports and then show us to a bed and point to the showers. It is seeing grace in action that God has put a love for the pilgrims in their hearts and they in turn welcome us with a greeting a queen couldn´t hope to enjoy more.
Why do people make a pilgrimage?
It seems that throughout time, people – and not just Christians – have gone on journeys with a spiritual focus. Pilgrimage was a part of the religion of the Egyptians, Greeks, Aztecs and Indians. The Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the foundational elements of that faith, and 'mecca' has come to mean "a special destination of many people." Some of the ancients believed that their gods had power limited to a certain place, and to appeal successfully for that deity's help you had to be within the realm of their effectiveness.
Early Christians visited the sites of the martyrs' deaths and celebrated their births to eternal life with Mass. Devoutly venerating these saints at the place of their martyrdom was recognized as removing the canonical penances due to sin. The penitential character of pilgrimages is easy to understand: traveling was often dangerous, shelter rudimentary at best, and financially a significant burden both in terms of savings spent and income lost while away from home. A law enacted under Edgar (959-75), one of the first kings of a United England, described the rigors of a penitential pilgrimage, including the lack of haircuts and manicures! "It is a deep penitence that a layman lay aside his weapons and travel far barefoot and nowhere pass a second night and fast and watch much and pray fervently, by day and by night and willingly undergo fatigue and be so squalid that iron come not on hair or on nail."
Sally: There is nothing easy about this journey but we learn to be grateful for the respites from uphill or downhill terrain…We had a good evening and talked about how there was no way to know going into this how hard it would be in a physical way but how beautiful it was in so many other ways.
At approximately the same time, visiting the places of our Lord's life, death and resurrection became popular as well, as the experience of being in the same place as Jesus helped the pilgrim experience a space made sacred by its very Creator. Eusebius, writing in the early fourth century remarked of a certain bishop named Alexander that "he performed a journey from Cappadocia to Jerusalem in consequence of a vow and the celebrity of the place." The date Eusebius gives for that pilgrimage was 217! When Pope John Paul II encouraged pilgrimages to the places linked to the history of salvation during the Jubilee Year of 2000, he quoted from the journal he wrote when he first visited the Holy Land in 1965.
"I come across these places which you have filled with yourself once and for all. ... Oh place ... You were transformed so many times before you, His place, became mine. When for the first time He filled you, you were not yet an outer place; you were but His Mother's womb. How I long to know that the stones I am treading in Nazareth are the same which her feet touched when she was Your only place on earth. Meeting You through the stone touched by the feet of Your Mother. Oh, comer of the earth, place in the holy land — what kind of place are you in me? My steps cannot tread on you; I must kneel. Thus I confirm today you were indeed a place of meeting. Kneeling down I imprint a seal on you. You will remain here with my seal — you will remain — and I will take you and transform you within me into the place of new testimony. I will walk away as a witness who testifies across the millennia." (Karol Wojtyla, Poezje. Poems, Wydawnictwo Literackie, Krakow 1998, p. 168).
Another influence that made the pilgrimage so popular a form of devotion was the fact that it contributed to ease the soul of some of its vague restlessness in an age when most people never strayed beyond a few miles from their home. Medieval psychology began to look upon a pilgrimage as a real help to the establishment of a perfectly controlled character. Some pilgrimage destinations had relics of saints that were known to cure certain illnesses. While we are incredibly more mobile than our Medieval ancestors, there can still be a sense of wanderlust in us, which might be more fully sated when the wandering is taken on at a more human pace, and without benefit of cars, planes, trains, or a crowded tour bus.
Sally: Today there were many gifts, the first was seeing a shepherd and his sheep. They moved as almost one mass; where the shepherd went, the sheep moved with him. It was a compelling image of being the shepherd´s follower. Then we went through miles of vineyards and I remembered Uncle Willie telling me that to make good wine you have to stress the plant, not give it water, plant it in poor soil - seemingly everthing against what you want to do for a plant you are growing. It makes the grape´s flavor more intense and better for wine.
All this walking and thinking and images … do you sense where my mind has gone? When we are struggling with life´s pains our focus is narrowed down to where it should be hopefully; on God and getting through to better times. It is like going uphill; there may be tremendous effort, but you know where that effort is going.
When wars in medieval Europe prevented Christian pilgrims from visiting the Holy Land, European artists created works depicting scenes of Christ's journey to Calvary. The faithful installed these sculptures or paintings at intervals along a procession route, inside the parish church or outdoors. Performing the devotion meant walking the entire route, stopping to pray at each "station." In addition to the stations of the cross, some would-be pilgrims made a symbolic journey to Jerusalem along a geometric path known as a labyrinth. Unlike a maze, there are no blind alleys or dead ends; the only choice is to begin or not. The labyrinth incorporated into the floor of the nave of the Cathedral of Chartres is perhaps the best known example of Medieval labyrinths.
Walking a labyrinth parallels the spiritual experience of a pilgrimage to Compostela or any of the pilgrimage destinations of Christianity. Three stages mark the labyrinth journey. The first is purgation. As the pilgrim enters the labyrinth, the worries of everyday life are left behind on the winding pass to the center. The second stage is illumination, begun once the center is reached. It is a place for prayer and meditation, and for Medieval pilgrims represented the holy city, Jerusalem, as well as the eternal City of God, heaven. As the pilgrim leaves the center on the return journey, the stage of union begins. On the way toward the end of the labyrinth the pilgrim reflects on what they've experienced and prepare to enter the outside world, spiritually renewed.
Sally: Gratitude: just one of the lessons the camino has to offer. We are staying in an albergue (shelter) tonight that has only two beds to a room! For two women who don´t have a lot of routines between us we certainly have our routines here. When we arrive we thank God that there is still room available for us, then we unload our packs and head for the showers, then we wash our clothes. Many of the villages we stay in have an evening Mass for pilgrims.
Today it was if God said, "Shut up Sally, and take a look around at what beauty surrounds you."
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a few day hikes in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver with another Dominican friend of mine. A simple walk can have the effect of a pilgrimage if it is undertaken with a conscious abandonment of our daily cares so that we can focus our senses on the world around us: the warmth of the sun or the patter of rain, the shudder of leaves on a soft breeze, the aroma of pine or eucalyptus. In these moments I find it easy to reflect on the loveliness and unfathomed creativity of God. The occasions I've had to hike with parents and their toddlers would indicate that walking at their pace and focusing on what on the ground captures their attention could itself be a form of pilgrimage.
If a pilgrimage is meant to atone for sin, deepen the relationship with God, provide a more stable character or help in healing, then the heart of pilgrimage is prayer. In fact, one might propose that prayer itself is a pilgrimage, whether it be in the form of a lengthy retreat, an hour before the Blessed Sacrament, or a response to the Lord's invitation to a few moments of stillness in the midst of a busy day. St. Augustine, in a letter to a friend, expounds on the happy paradox that it is not by journeying but by loving we draw near to God. "To Him who is everywhere present and everywhere entire we approach not by our feet but by our hearts." (Ep. clv, 672, in P. L. XXXII)
One final type of pilgrimage that we can undertake without a lot of time and expense might be the pilgrimage that leads us to encounter our neighbor in need. This path might take us to what we might think of as an "unholy" land: a place of poverty, bitterness, despair, or addiction. Yet Scripture tells us, "whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1John4:20)
This way of pilgrimage takes us out of our comfortable routine and thrusts us into the unfamiliar, just like the pilgrimage to Compostela. Every pilgrimage is a conscious entering into liminal space: a special time in our life when our normal situation is so uprooted so that it is possible to plant new roots and take up life in a whole new way. To choose to encounter a new environment with new people, whether it is among the homeless and working poor at a local shelter or soup kitchen, accompanying someone as they struggle with addiction, or helping an illiterate adult learn to read and write, is to open ourselves to the possibility of a future that is radically different from our present. A pilgrimage of any sort offers us a taste of dependence upon others, especially God, and invites us to a life no longer centered on ourselves.
Sally: We are all pilgrims on this earth. Remember to be the one who offers the cool glass of water or the warmed sandwich, not the one who sends another away.
As Sherry indicated in the article above, the greatest pilgrimage of all is the one each of us is invited by Jesus to embrace: the pilgrimage that is taking up our cross daily and following him in our own unique mission of love, sacrifice, and service. This pilgrimage leads us, not to a city on earth, but to the City of God, the New Jerusalem!