It’s Easter and Spring, and it’s time to start looking forward to some summer adventures!
At the beginning of Lent an idea was conceived. It was the fruit of two needs: a) The need for a European style walking pilgrimage. Why was this a need? I’ll get to that later. b) The need to stay local. Why was there a need to stay local? Because the Pembroke Diocese is awesome, so we shouldn’t get on a plane to go for a walk. If the truth of this claim isn’t self-evident to you, be patient with me, and I’m sure it will become as clear as the Madawaska is long. The union of these two needs produced the idea of St. Ann’s “Walk the Opeongo Line” Pilgrimage. Since its conception in February, the idea has grown into a full fledged plan. That plan is to spend three and a half days on the Opeongo Road – walking, praying, eating, learning, singing, sleeping.
(That’s me, with a little more hair, at World Youth Day, Cologne in 2008.)
Why do we need a walking pilgrimage? (Maybe we don’t need it, but I want it, so I’m projecting my want onto the Diocese as a need. That’s fine.) We need a walking pilgrimage because we need to rediscover what it means to trust in God’s Providence. We live in a society that thrives on control. Everyone is vying for his individual rights, seeking greater personal dominion, and we’re forgetting the One Who really has Dominion. There are, of course, many ways to strengthen one’s trust in God (e.g., keeping a journal of blessings we receive or saying prayers of abandonment to Divine Providence), but pilgrimages are particularly powerful.
St. Ann’s, Cormac is one pilgrim destination among many, but there are a number of important elements that combine to make St. Ann’s “Walk the Opeongo Line” Pilgrimage a beautiful opportunity: Pope Francis declared this year a jubilee year of mercy and encouraged us to make this type of journey, pilgrimage to St. Ann’s, Cormac has been fostering devotion in the diocese for more than 75 years, the Opeongo Road is one of the original settlement routes for what would become the Pembroke Diocese, the parishes along the way are some of the oldest in the diocese, and the weather is always wonderful on St. Ann’s weekend!
A pilgrimage isn’t just a hike, and it’s not just time away from the noise and distractions of the world. When we set out on pilgrimage we offer our time and energy to God as a sacrifice and as an opportunity for Him to be present to us, and when we give Him an opening, He never misses His chance to move in. I have been on many pilgrimages, long and short, and every step, every blister, quiet conversation, and song is a gift. Thus far, God has always surpassed my expectations, and I know He always will. As Pope Francis likes to say, Our God is, “the God of surprises!“
(I haven’t always known exactly where God wanted me, but up is generally a good way to reach a mountain top.)