A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Pilgrimage

By Fr David Kennerley sm

Motif and dynamic of the Christian Life

The Solemnity of the Transfiguration of the Lord is the occasion when God’s life gloriously shone forth in the body of Jesus. In a sense, that’s our goal as the baptised. And to make that challenge a more realistic goal for us, the Church punctuates her calendar with the saints. In August we honour seven martyrs alone.

We are all called to be saints! That is a point on the horizon we need to keep in view, taking our bearings towards it as we journey through life. Simply maintaining that positive stance is perhaps the most basic, crucial step I can take in what is ultimately God’s work in me. Perhaps at heart, the sole difference between a saint and ourselves is the seriousness which we give to this disposition.

Writing to the Hebrews images life as a journey of faith. “By faith Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land he had been promised, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise… All these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking their real homeland” (11:8-10, 13-14). I wonder which words, phrases struck you the most?

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s cottage, Arrowtown

Early in Abraham’s story we learn that he and Sarah had “amassed possessions and people”; clearly they were more successful than most, and given this and their revered age, were supposedly rather content - and then came God’s call! Faith for them meant freely embarking on a time of dislocation, an experience of being removed from familiar people and surrounds, and to roam instead in places alien to them. In short, their physical journey, whereby they experienced themselves as transients or foreigners in some strange land, paralleled and indeed served to intensify an inner spiritual quest. What we glean here from the story of Abraham, who thus became “the friend of God” (James 2:23; Isaiah 41:8), captures well certain key aspects of our lifelong Christian vocation. These same aspects also highlight the value of a short-term pilgrimage.

‘Making a pilgrimage’ is certainly nothing new. Indeed, I suspect that at one level, it is a relatively universal experience of the Creator God’s deft touch which invites us to ‘transformation’, and to discover or reclaim that place or relationship where we are most ‘at home.’

But remember, the physical journey is really secondary to the spiritual quest, which means that our pilgrimage need not be expensive nor take us overseas. It might mean travelling only to the next town; from one diocese to another; or crossing between the North and South Islands. Some possibilities: Totora Point or Motuti in Northland; Mary MacKillop’s cottage, Arrowtown; Susan Aubert at the Island Bay Home of Compassion; Pukekaraka Marae, Otaki.

Where might you go then? Look up the stories behind each of the above, go forth in a spirit of wonder, remain ever open to what God is doing with you.  


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