At this moment thousands of pilgrims are walking to Santiago de Compostela, having started from hundreds of different places, with as many reasons for walking as there are pilgrims. Their path is holy because they see it as holy, as millions have before, for hundreds of years.
It does not look like this year I will walk the Way again. But then these past two years, we started and both time had to stop earlier than we wanted, as if some part of us was saying, Enough already.
Nearly three months ago, when I reached Manresa and began reading Ignatius’ autobiography under the guidance of our lecturer, and in company of the other participants, I re-discovered that Ignatius called himself “the pilgrim.”
After his being wounded at the battle of Pamplona in 1521 and while recovering from his wound in his family’s home, he started dreaming of becoming a great saint, walking to and settling in Jerusalem, where he would help souls. The Franciscan authorities in the place did not allow him to stay in Jerusalem and sent him packing back home. His pilgrimage had him walk back and forth between Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, England even, Venice and finally Rome. He walked thousands of miles, limping and begging. When he finally settled in Rome, he kept seeing himself as a pilgrim, even though by then he was the one sending others on mission, all over the planet.
Ignatius was a saintly pilgrim; I’m just a regular one. I can’t help being a pilgrim, possibly because of all the highs I experienced while walking. The highs and lows, ecstasy and dark moments of desolation…
In Manresa then, I felt that it might be time for me to become an Ignatian pilgrim, hanging my long-distance walking staff hanging on the side of a bookshelf, and walking with Ignatius. This felt good enough. I would walk in places where Godde wants me to be, at a pace my body allows, and will converse with whomever comes along and wants to talk.
I was settling down with this prospect, when along came a lecturer who presented side by side Ignatius’ mystical vision by the Cardoner river in Manresa and Teilhard’s cosmic vision in Manchuria and everywhere else he lived before and after. Both men being called to develop a ‘Christ-consciousness’, Sr. Ilia Delio would say.
Through Godde, with the Cosmic Christ, in the Holy Spirit, being called to be co-creators of the Kingdom, laboring alongside the Risen Christ to help make a better world. A world which now encompasses the whole Cosmos.
An invitation sent out two thousand years ago, by Paul, to live and die in Jesus; to empty ourselves as Jesus did, followed soon after by Paul himself, and a multitude of others since then.
My life, like yours I suspect, is a holy walk through events and encounters where Godde every day is waiting for me to notice Her, not only in the e-mail or the phone call I receive, in the birds that keep chirping praises all day, in the green leaves glowing in the afternoon sun, but also in the persons I meet, my old neighbor, my grocer, the child next door. We are walking our lives together, hoping to create more good than bad, to bring about more joy than sadness, to invite in more than to select out.
We all are cosmic Johnny-Appleseeds, cosmic pilgrims. And the sky’s the limit, with that brilliant Omega Point for all eyes to see, shimmering in the distance.
Art: Fr. McNichols, St Ignatius of Loyola
If you have not read Phil Cousineau’s The Art of Pilgrimage: The Secret Guide to Making Travel Sacred, do. It is an inspired book, about pilgrimage, of course, but also about how to mae one’s life sacred, whether one walks thousands of miles or just a few blocks to the local park. You won’t regret it.