|March 23, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 6 • Oakland, CA|
A pilgrimage of the heart will enrich the spirit
By Very Rev. Joseph M. Mele
Visiting old, darkened churches, stopping at crypts and tombs of long-buried saints, walking long distances to rugged and remote places may not sound like a dream vacation or the most exciting adventure.
One hardly thinks of prayer and asceticism in Paris, where a world-renowned shopping culture defiantly claims to surpass certain religious ceremonials. The average traveler normally thinks of Prada, Chanel, Armani, Calvin Klein and Yves Saint Laurent in France, but not St. Vincent de Paul, St. Theresa of Lisieux, St. Francis de Sales and St. Catherine Laboure.
For 16 of us, including Father Harry Nichols and Father John Gudewicz, every step of the pilgrimage to the Catholic shrines of France on Sept. 24-Oct. 3 was eye-opening and even life-changing.
When a pilgrim enters into the itinerary realizing that, like all of life's important moments, there is a mystery at hand, one becomes bolder in believing, braver in responding to what was never felt before.
You begin to see a much wider dimension of your own humanity in a way that's so personal — just you and the powerful grace of the presence of Christ. A pilgrim starts to understand that the same love and devotion that you are honoring in the saints you venerate is the same holiness that God has instilled in you. It is already there in your heart.
We call it "givenness." It is the same Christ offering his love, the same way that he offered it to St. Bernadette, St. Margaret Mary, St. Lazare and St. Germaine.
All that matters as you follow the path that is opening up before you is that you receive his love in the deepest capacity your heart is willing to permit. French Catholic spirituality teaches that every created soul receives the same depth of Jesus' love.
The way that his love enters a person's heart is in exact proportion to how much you give him your heart. When one responds to his love and grace willingly, then one discovers what distinguishes a saint. They gave him their all and encountered him accordingly.
We pilgrims could only hope that what we were offering was acceptable as we renewed our desire to want to be a pilgrim-saint. One of our pilgrims, Laurie Craig of St. Alphonsus Parish in Wexford, put it this way: "I reali
zed more than ever just how important the saints are to us in the world and the church today. They reminded me that God and the Blessed Mother are closer to us than we sometimes are aware, providing us with practical help and hope through all the ages." A couple on our journey, Wilfred and Kathy Lee Foon of St. Fidelis Parish in Lyndora/Meridian, put it well when they said, "We both honestly feel that our faith has been enlivened and deepened.
This exciting pilgrimage was truly a time to focus on our own spiritual lives and our capacity to receive faith in Christ and the church."
A pilgrimage can be the best adventure of a lifetime. The culture shock of the deeply spiritual can create memories that will last forever, especially when you begin the journey to explore unknown parts of your human heart.
(Father Joseph Mele is secretary for leadership development in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He wrote this last October for the diocesan newspaper, The Pittsburgh Catholic.)
back to top
|Copyright © 2015 The Catholic Voice, All Rights Reserved. Site design by Sarah Kalmon-Bauer.|