Americans Meeting in Washington D.C. for a Sacred Purpose
So today is THE MARCH. Father reminded us at Mass this morning never to despair when praying for the conversion of someone. The God who converted Saul of Tarsus can certainly convert those who are misinformed about abortion. We continue to pray for those who are marching and those who are watching. May there be many conversions today.
For those who have left the comfort of their warm homes to brave the freezing temperatures in Washington, this is a real pilgrimage. Someone asked me last night for the definition of a pilgrimage. I don’t have Webster in front of me, but I’d say it’s a journey to a sacred place, for a sacred purpose. Sometimes the place of pilgrimage is sanctified by God or His holy Mother, and sometimes it’s made holy by the very spiritual longing we have in our hearts as we journey. I don’t know if the National Mall (not a shopping Mall) in Washington is in itself a sacred place, but it will be holy ground today because of all the Americans meeting there for a sacred purpose.
We’ve all made pilgrimages of one sort or another at least once in our lives. I’m not talking about the physical travel to a geographical location so much as the spiritual journey to places that have become sacred and have had a holy purpose. A serious illness becomes a pilgrimage when we journey through it with faith and surrender, longing for a closer union with Our Lord. A process of discernment, like the one we all made before we chose to enter the Sisters of Charity, is a pilgrimage. And there are smaller pilgrimages we make in the course of the closer following of Jesus: the journey toward conversion we make each year during our annual Retreat: we’re certainly on Holy Ground then, with a sacred purpose different for each one of us, but holy nonetheless.
Finally, there are the inner pilgrimages we make into the heart of things. Pope John Paul II used to say, “Go deeper.” If we aren’t careful we can become so caught up in the busy-ness of our ‘work’ of caring for the sick and the poor, counseling others, cooking, setting tables, teaching and the countless other tasks that make up our day, that we lose sight of what really matters: who we are and Whose we are.
By going deeper we journey to those places within us that might be broken; we find may ourselves standing before an image of what we might be if we dare to become; or we will gaze into the mirror of God’s love to determine who we have already become. Each of these journeys is sacred. And the destination is no more important than the steps we take to arrive. Joyce Rupp wrote, “To be a pilgrim is to be willing to live with the mystery of what will happen, both interiorly and exteriorly, as one walks toward the destination of the sacred site. What happens inside cannot be planned…. There are no maps of the heart. One simply holds onto the hand of the Great Pilgrim and travels with hope.” (from Walk in a Relaxed Manner, Orbis Books, 2005.) As T.S. Eliot says in “Little Gidding:”
We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
The Holy Father has often said that we must each make a pilgrimage during this Year of Faith. Where will your pilgrimage begin? And where will it end? Only God knows for sure, but I suspect that You will lift your eyes and find yourself, at last, in His embrace.
May you find yourself there today.
Lovingly united In that embrace,
Mother Marie Julie