Conclusions and teachings from our father after a recent pilgrimage
During a pilgrimage, the days carry a spiritual weight of higher intensity than normal, and so we can more clearly see the presence and action of the spiritual laws in our lives.
Being par excellence a spiritual work (the unfortunate attempts to combine pilgrimages and tourism are destined to fail), during a pilgrimage we have the chance to live much more authentically the life to which Christ is calling us. It is a chance to immerse ourselves into the world of the Spirit, to learn the language of God.
Preparing for the pilgrimage is important. Let’s try to pay attention to what we bring with us (and I don’t mean luggage :) )! It’s obvious that we also take with us our habits, including the bad ones. We should try harder to control them (us), at least during these days. Of course, we gain power to do so if we confess before and possibly also during the pilgrimage.
I believe we all aim for two objectives in a pilgrimage: to acquire grace and spiritual experience, and to come back richer in Christ.
Besides checking off all the various concrete objectives of the pilgrimage (holy relics, churches, wonderworking icons, etc.), if we want this spiritual enrichment to take place, we have to pay attention to some aspects that we also noticed during our recent pilgrimage:
- It is very important to make the effort / to struggle with ourselves to be obedient to the one who leads the group, and to ask for a blessing for everything.
- Sacrifice brings a lot of grace (starting with the simplest things: carrying others persons’ children, for example; someone confessed to me that he received more grace from this than from venerating a wonderworking icon).
- The sacrifice of each one of us is founded upon “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
- There is a lot to gain for those who struggle to avoid any kind of scattering (in thoughts, words, or looks).
- Let’s first pray to our heart’s content in the places where we find ourselves, and only afterwards start filming and taking photos.
- Asceticism during these days is important: less sleeping, talking and eating, and more struggling to not lose our focus, to be patient with our brother, as well as more prayer and fasting.
- Let’s try not to achieve “feats” such as “as many objectives as possible during the days we have available”. I remember “disappointing” someone when, after a two week stay in the Holy Mountain, I told him I had only visited three monasteries. His answer: “What? Only three? I visited 19!” As if they are departments in a store. Every place has its own spirit, its own state of being, and we can never taste of them if we are in a continuous race to “check mark” new and countless “spiritual trophies”.
How do we lose the grace?
- Judging our brother is the easiest way, not to mention tensions and quarrels.
- Talking a lot is a sign of spiritual poverty.
- “My will be done” brings a lot of sadness, it’s a problem we often encounter during a pilgrimage.
- Let’s not lose our peace over a cheap bargain (for example, when we buy something, when we pay for a meal, etc.).
- Superficially living these special days: we won’t have this time again. For some, seven days (the duration of our pilgrimage) can be like seven lives, for others they can be like seven hours – it depends on how we relate to them.
- Let’s pay special attention to judging mistakes or shortcomings. Let’s try not to say anything bad about a place or a person who disappointed us.
After the pilgrimage
Theoretically, from a pilgrimage you come back a different person. But only afterwards, as time passes, in a few years, you will see what the pilgrimage meant in your life: “you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20), says Christ. If the fruits are not good it means we didn’t make the pilgrimage ours, that we didn’t make use of it in the right way.
Let’s not waste what we have received. We waste it when we throw our pearls before swine (cf. Matthew 7:6), when we relate our state of spirit and the grace received during our pilgrimage to those who couldn’t care less about Christ.
Let’s pay a lot of attention to what God gives us is a direct and personal way. And if we are to share, let’s ask for advice before doing so, meaning that our spiritual father should and can tell us what we can and what we cannot tell to those close to us. Many are those who started unveiling the grace of God worked in their hearts, and found themselves losing that grace. They didn’t understand that what they had received was for them only.
After each pilgrimage, our lives should acquire a new brilliance. This is the consequence of gaining grace, this shows that we have gained much from our experiences lived during the pilgrimage.
Otherwise, we will be making trips, and not pilgrimages. And that’s a pity.