I just got back yesterday from a visit to see my brother, who is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York City. My sister and I joined them for a pilgrimage celebrating the Polish culture of New Jersey and honoring our Lady of Czestochowa. It was such a blessing to be there as it gave me a greater understanding of the pilgrimage we are all on in life. Sometimes our vision can be pretty short term only looking at the given moment, missing a greater context of what life is to come. The 60 mile pilgrimage I just went on, (yeah I said 60 miles!) reminded me of this greater pilgrimage, this journey that all people of God are on to eternal life in Heaven. And that is worth reflecting on and being reminded about. Walk with me…
This past Thursday morning all those participating in the pilgrimage started at St. Peter and Paul Church in Great Meadows, NJ at 6am. It was early for those of us who are on a summer schedule. As the walking started, I was inspired by the groups of people I was with. All the groups, the Polish, the English, and the Hispanics were all committed, enthusiastic, and joyful as they started 60 miles of walking. It struck me that all of these people, or most of them anyway, could have this attitude because they were excited and determined to get where they were going. The Franciscan brother who was in charge kept yelling, “We are going to Czestochowa!” All were excited to end at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, to honor Mary and to fulfill their pilgrimage in every way. That was our goal, that was our end, and we strived to do it with great joy.
On our pilgrimage of life, it must be the same way. If we know where we are going and are determined to get there, it should show in our attitude and personality. Heaven is our goal my friends! Our inspiration of living through the day is not going to the mall, or sports games, or school, or work for that matter, but everything we do should be started and completed with the idea and attitude that everything is leading us to our final goal and destination which is to be in Heaven with the God who made us and loves us beyond all else. Are you living as if you know where you are going? Trust me it changes everything.
As the walking started, I had a big smile on my face and great joy in my heart. I was on this journey with my two best friends - to one side was my sister and the other my brother. Experiencing this pilgrimage with them gave me great comfort, energy, and kept me going when I was tired and wanted to rest. When I looked up and down the crowd we were walking with, I was humbled by the other people with us. I was a stranger to most of them, but it was the hospitality and love that was shown to me that inspired me and encouraged me as we were walking.
On our pilgrimage of life, those who are walking beside us are the ones that will inspire us and lead us to our destination. Those family members, friends, mentors, or strangers who influence us are the ones that will give us hope when we are discouraged, peace when we are troubled, and energy when we don’t want to go on. The Lord has called us to be a people in community! What great news it is to know that we are called to journey not by ourselves but with others who are committed and inspired to the final end as we are. Who are your traveling partners to Heaven?
Lastly, it didn’t take very long for all of us who were on the pilgrimage in New Jersey to have to starting dealing with the adversity of the walk. Some got blisters, some got poison ivy, some were tired, and most of us were sore. It rained one of the days, and the hills we walked up seemed daunting at times. There were many points of adversity that we all had to preserver through with our eyes on our final end and goal. Czestochowa!
On our pilgrimage of life, the adversity we experience and struggle with can beat us down and hold us up. The blisters of broken relationships and friendships; the poison ivy of bad influences in our lives; the rain of tragedy or incontrollable events; and soreness of broken hearts and sickness or death - all these things can affect our journey to heaven. But the real question is how we deal with it all. Do we let it distract us and take us off the path of our final goal? Or do we take time to heal, get patched up, put on a poncho, take some Tylenol and get back in the game?
My friends, in our pilgrimage back to our Heavenly Father, we must be determined to get to where we are going, take joy in whom we are traveling with, and respond to the adversities of the journey with faith and hope. As I am sitting here recovering from the walk to the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in New Jersey, I am inspired and now committed more than ever to push forward on my pilgrimage to Heaven.
May I see all of you on the way! We are going to Heaven! Let us be on our way…
God Bless You,