It’s bound to happen. You sign up for a pilgrimage anticipating a peaceful, prayerful and enjoyable time when something goes wrong. Transportation breaks down, accommodations are not the quality you expected, you don’t get to see what you had anticipated, weather doesn’t cooperate, etc.
I write from experience. Years ago I was part of a pilgrimage to Lourdes. One look at our chartered plane had me concerned. All of the seats were mismatched, sections of carpet were mismatched, a panel was missing from the door. The whole plane spoke to being dangerous, unsafe. While we were planning to pray at Lourdes, we started praying before we took off in hopes we would make it there.
This coming Saturday, I will travel with more than 200 people from our diocese to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington for a day of prayer, reflection and Mass.
I anticipate that in the logistics of trying to get there we might encounter some snafus. For instance, it is possible there will be a backup on northbound I-95. Although we often get stuck in traffic on I-95, it might bother us even more on that day because we are trying to get some place for a scheduled event.
While our view of pilgrimage might be that of a clear, hazard-free path much like a walk in a park on a beautiful day, in fact, pilgrimage is associated with sacrifice. Oftentimes in the course of our pilgrimage, our Lord is asking us to trust more deeply in him and to be aware of his providential care.
We might need to be more patient with those around us, to be willing to bear whatever small crosses come our way. Those occasions are opportunities to grow in the spiritual life which is what a pilgrimage is meant to be.
Throughout our pilgrimage, our Lord, in a small way, is prompting us to enter into a deeper relationship with him, to a deeper love for those around us and a deeper expression of the fruits of the Spirit — patience, kindness and gentleness.
We know that the Evil One, in the midst of those opportunities for grace, is going to try and disrupt them. He will prod us to be impatient, to not be so gentle with those around us, to not bear with joy some of the difficulties that come our way. Our response is to employ that patience, kindness and gentleness and to call upon the Spirit to guide us.
Should we encounter trouble, i.e., challenges, setbacks and inconveniences, during our pilgrimage, we can consider the words of St. Augustine: “Trouble should not really be thought of as this thing or that in particular, for our whole life on earth involves trouble; and through the troubles of our earthly pilgrimage we find God.”
Something to pray about if we’re stuck in traffic on I-95.