”This (Holy Year) is the opportune moment to change our lives!” the pope has said. “This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!…May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion.”
– Pope Francis
This is what Pope Francis said when he opened up this Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy. He also mentioned that a pilgrimage would be equally beneficial closer to home if a trip to Rome wasn’t possible.
That intrigued me, and I began to think about pilgrimage in a more tangible, more accessible way.
In a mere five weeks, we are coming to the conclusion of that Extraordinary Jubilee Year.
In some ways, I have done much towards creating a better understanding of mercy – for myself and for others. I have also reflected much more on forgiveness – again, both for myself and for others.
It took me some time to initially walk through our Holy Door; to feel as though I were ready; worthy of the entrance. I didn’t want to rush through and have it be done, like a ticky box to b checked. I wanted to discern and meditate on what it meant, and perhaps that meant that I would never walk through the portal.
I’ve written before about how I did finally reach a moment to enter, and then a second moment. When our family went on a short holiday to Niagara Falls, I wanted to go to reconciliation and to enter through the Holy Door with prayer and reflection before our journey.
Niagara Falls is one of those places that I grew up visiting and loved as a child, and that I eventually shared with my husband and later with my oldest son. Now, I was going to share it with my two younger children, but I was also going to see the magnificent and powerful falls with new eyes; eyes that had been touched by G-d and by faith.
I had spent much of my year of mercy as a spiritual pilgrim, going to places that struck me as important on my journey. Sometimes that was as simple as sitting in Starbucks or outside on a bench with a cool breeze waving my hair around.
Sometimes, it was taking a week in the spring to visit some local historical places, taking my camera and my journal and discovering new things about the places, the people, and myself despite my lack of stamina.
I went to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs, wandering in the rain, praying, and just being in the stillness of such a place of faith.
I joined three ministries at church; things that I felt a calling to, in education, in adult faith formation, and in service. Time is short, but I’m working through the process of balancing it all.
I went on two weekend and one four-week retreats that reenergized me, and my creative spirit was able to blend with my faithful spirit. It gave meaning to the Scriptures and the environment, and propelled me forward and given me strength.
My pilgrimage of writing has been equally in the forefront and as important as my spiritual pilgrimage. I am always on the path of a pilgrim, whether I write about it or not. It is who I am.
This year of mercy will remain with me much longer than the physical year.