For two years I have been praying and paying and preparing for one week of my life: a pilgrimage to Poland for World Youth Day. Two years have elapsed and now in a mere two days I will board a plane with 70 other pilgrims from Houston and cross into Europe.
I began this blog two years ago just after making my participation in this experience official. The fall semester of my sophomore year was one imbued with many themes of pilgrimage. I read Dante, Josef Pieper, and Chaucer. I reflected on St. Therese’s musings and on the Songs of Ascent in the Book of Psalms. For the first time in my life, I began to understand what this life truly is: a pilgrimage, an ascent to the heavenly Jerusalem. But I saw my life take shape in many other, smaller pilgrimages during the time in between then and now.
In my very first post, The Pilgrim, I introduced the blog and meditated on the meaning of pilgrimage. I asked for donations for the Poland Pilgrimage. That was November 2014. Today seemed so far away then. So much has happened between then and now. Many of you journeyed with me on here as I wrote about my adventures with study abroad last fall and some have seen the other various thoughts that have crossed my mind along the way.
Now I stand on a precipice of a known yet unknown journey. I know where we are meant to go, what we’re meant to see. My bags are packed. I’ve been walking more to prepare my body, and I’ve done reading on all the great Polish saints to prepare my soul. But where am I going? Who will I meet? How will Christ alter my plans and pre-conceived notions? I pray that I have the courage to place it all in his hands and say, Jesus I trust in you.
Someone who trusted absolutely in our Lord is St. Mary Magdalene. Today the Church remembers the great woman who is heralded throughout the centuries as the “apostle to the apostles” for her mission from Jesus to be the very first to share the joy of his resurrection from the grave. Cardinal Sarah wrote recently,
St. Mary Magdalene seeks the Lord, and when she finds him, she adores him. She is the first to adore the Lord….Adoration takes first place. Mary Magdalene reminds us of the need to recover the primacy of God and the primacy of adoration in the life of the Church and in the liturgical celebration.
Mary Magdalene was a woman who was known by Christ. She stood at the foot of the cross as he suffered and died. She was the first to witness the Resurrected Lord. She was called by name. She was known, but she also longed to know him. He utters her name, and she exclaims “Teacher!” Yet Jesus is so much more than Teacher. One of the optional first readings for today is a stunning cry of longing from Song of Songs 3:1-4b,
Upon my bed by night, I sought him who my soul loves, I sought him, but found him not. I called him, but he gave me no answer. “I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” I sought him, but found him not. The watchmen found me, as they went about in the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves? Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves.
This passage reads like what Mary Magdalene’s heart must have been screaming that Sunday morning that she went to the tomb. Jesus is the Lover of her heart, as he is the great Lover of us all. Mary Magdalene found him who her soul loved. So I too, as Cardinal Sarah put it, desire to seek my Lord to adore him and receive my mission.
This is why I go on pilgrimage to World Youth Day: to seek Him, adore Him, and receive my mission from Him who my soul loves.
I also go for those whose intentions I carry with me. I go for those who can’t. I go for those reluctant to answer God’s call. I go for those who do not know Him at all. I go for those in the throes of joy. I go for the spiritual maturity of my peers. I go for the Church – for the strength of the Body of Christ. I go to rest in His Love. I go for the sake of His unfathomable divine mercy. I go for my fellow pilgrims. I go as His instrument to open myself up to His will.
This is not whimsical wander lust. This is not a trip. This is not international adventure in the secular sense. This is a pilgrimage. This is more for interior exploration than exterior, though that will most certainly take place. My eyes will wonder on the beautiful places and spaces of Poland. My body will crumble under physical exhaustion. However, I’m most concerned with what the eyes of my heart will behold afterwards and whether my soul will find the needed nourishment and encouragement.
My pilgrimage is a joyful, humbling privilege. Yet it will also have its difficulties. Two million are expected to descend on Krakow for the occasion. We will all need your prayers for this special time. Please be assured of my prayers as I walk, reflect, behold, and participate in what is to come.
May God bless you on your way!