By Mary DeTurris Poust
I rarely go to the movies and almost never with my husband, Dennis, but last weekend I decided we were going to find the time -- make the time -- to see The Way with Martin Sheen. In recent years, pilgrimage has become an important part of my spiritual journey. And not just because I finally got the chance to go to Rome last year. Nope. In fact, my focus on pilgrimage began long before I'd ever renewed my passport, and that, as it turns out, is as it should be. We are all on a pilgrimage, whether we walk the 800 kilometers of the famed Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or never get past our neighborhood church.
Here's how I put it in the pilgrimage section of my latest book, The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass:
"When we think of pilgrimage, it's likely we imagine a journey to some far-off land. It's true that a pilgrimage in the traditional sense is a long journey, but our entire lives are meant to be a pilgrimage -- both physical and spiritual -- leading us ever closer to God.
"...The goal of pilgrimage is not to reach a physical destination but rather a spiritual one. Without leaving home, we can make a pilgrimage of the heart, an interior journey where we hope to meet God. Through our various methods of prayer -- vocal and silent, communal and private -- we make this pilgrimage with countless others around the world. We simply have to look at our very lives as pilgrim journeys, guided by the Spirit, our destination being the heart of God. It's a pilgrimage that often takes the better part of a lifetime."
Where are you now on your pilgrim journey? Perhaps an actual, physical pilgrimage might jump start things. You don't have to travel to France and Spain a la Martin Sheen's character to begin. A pilgrimage can be as simple as a visit to a new or historic church in your area, a shrine you've always wanted to see, the birthplace of a saint, or any other sacred place that leads you deeper into prayer. For me, I felt the first strong stirrings of pilgrimage when I went to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs (which you can read about HERE and HERE) a few years ago. As I camped in a tent on the beautiful grounds with my son's Boy Scout troop, I began to realize the significance of walking in sacred footsteps, of joining other believers in a literal journey toward holiness.
In the movie The Way, we get a wonderful up-close view of what the Camino is like. I certainly came away from it with a new appreciation for the courage and determination of those who undertake this level of pilgrimage. It is not for the feint of heart. And yet I know two people who have made this journey, and, in the back of my mind, I wonder if, perhaps, some day I will walk the Camino, either on my own or with Dennis or one of our children. Even seeing the rigorous terrain, the often-crowded sleeping conditions, and the many difficulties of the Way was not enough to make me cross the possibility off my list of potential pilgrim journeys. Quite the contrary. Seeing the film reminded me that pilgrimage is about leaving our comfort zones. Yes, physical comfort zones but also spiritual comfort zones. Pilgrimage -- as we see through the central characters of The Way -- is about looking at things we want to ignore, seeing in others what we've never seen before, exploring uncharted territory in our own hearts, healing our brokenness, finding our Truth...Continue reading HERE.