Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lessons for Pilgrims

The following is a journal entry from a pilgrimage I made to historic religious shrines across southern England and Wales. I began on the eastern side of the British Isles at the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and ended on the far western tip of Pembrokeshire at the shrines of St. David and his mother St. Non, which--as with many venerable Christian pilgrimage sites in the British Isles--appear to have been places of pilgrimage in pre-Christian times.

The following is a journal entry from 11.5.06:

"Lessons for pilgrims: in the Tree of Life, our roots are forever intertwined. Last night, Steve and I turned on t.v. It was a BBC cooking show, two large hairy men who explore places on motorcycle.

They were in Chiapas, which is where Steve was headed when he met me. A reminder that what may have seemed a diversion on his pilgrimage became our shared pilgrimage.

Every pilgrimage illuminates for us the pilgrimage we're on in our lives. All the lessons we learn on any one pilgrimage stand us in good stead on our life pilgrimage. To wit:

Grace comes from unexpected quarters and pops up in unexpected places. Who'd have thought, as we set out for T., that we'd meet M. and I., and discover we have so much in common--retired teachers, years spent caring for declining parents, a shared interest in the history of their house?

The agent of grace--the angel unawares--may look very different from what we imagine an angel to be. On any pilgrimage, there are graced moments when we meet extraordinarily kind and helpful people--some of them ones we'd not approach, just judging from their exterior.

Only to discover that in the Tree of Life, our roots are intertwined: we have something in common with them, no matter how distant or alien they seem. . . .

And we must be prepared to discover that we ourselves may, on pilgrimage, become conveyors of grace to others, unexpectedly. That is perhaps for me the hardest lesson of all to learn."

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