The night before, I had started to feel upset and lonely. It felt like everyone in the pilgrim group was traveling with a friend, spouse, or family member except me. I was tired of missing my significant other. I was tired of being hassled by street peddlers on every street. I was tired of having little time to digest the pilgrimage alone. My arthritic symptoms were coming back. This morning, despite my best attempt to avoid it, I cried at breakfast. So, on top of all my frustration and sadness, I was embarrassed.
I bet you can relate.
But this is a pilgrimage. In fact, every day of our lives is a pilgrimage. We are all on a journey. As we learned today during a private audience with His Excellency William Shomali, auxiliary to the Latin Patriarch here, every pilgrimage should focus on conversion, prayer, and solidarity with the whole Church.
Pilgrims are called to live in an extraordinarily different way than rest of the world. As pilgrims, you and I are called to recognize each situation as a grace that God has allowed. We rejoice in the good things and we have faith that the seemingly bad things are happening for some good. So this morning I prayed, Lord, thank you for everything I’m feeling. Thank you for the tears, the loneliness, and the embarrassment. Thank you for, in this way, allowing me to share in just a small taste of the suffering that You endured for the salvation of all people.
By no mistake (I’m certain), today we began our visits to the places associated with Christ’s Passion. The places where he was condemned, the dungeon where he spent the night as a criminal, the place where he was scourged, and some of our group spent the early morning hours at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which contains Calvary and the Tomb of Christ. (Click for pictures from today.)
God did allow me to deal with tears and unpleasant feelings today. But through prayer, they helped me to enter more into the history and reality of the holy places that we visited today. And whether or not you have personally visited any such holy site, I encourage you to adopt a pilgrim mindset. Strive for prayer, conversion, and solidarity. Recognize the grace in the joys and the sufferings, however small or large.
As Francis Cardinal Arinze once said, we should all go on pilgrimage to the chapel. There lives the God who is our Source and Goal.