Although we are not fortunate enough to be able to make it to Krakow and celebrate and experience such a momentous and faith filled event as World Youth Day, we can engage in pilgrimage in our daily life and experience a closer relationship and understanding of God, writes Brendan Nicholls.
Some of the students at our school are currently travelling to Poland, on pilgrimage to World Youth Day. They have joined an expected one million pilgrims at Krakow to experience a Mass offered by Pope Francis on Sunday the 31st of July, the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola.
The students have spent many months preparing for their journey and have concentrated on both their logistical and spiritual needs in the lead up to their experience. Their journey will take them well over 30,000km and last for almost two weeks. They will experience many new experiences and meet an enormous number of people as they move towards their destination.
Pilgrimages have been a central component of faith for people over many thousands of years. Pilgrims generally travel light, pray often, reflect upon life and God, have a destination that offers a deeper connection with God and an open heart. Pilgrimages allow people to escape the ordinary and experience the extraordinary.
Although we are not fortunate enough to be able to make it to Krakow and celebrate and experience such a momentous and faith filled event, we can engage in pilgrimage in our daily life and experience a closer relationship and understanding of God.
D.I.Y. Pilgrimage Guide
1. Get outside – make a decision to break out and experience the beautiful gift of nature that we are so fortunate to have. You might head to a beach, a dedicated path or simply walk out the door and keep walking.
2. Get moving – experiencing movement through activity brings us to a deeper awareness of the magnificence of our bodies. This perfection is often something that we overlook. However, as God knitted you together in your mothers womb (Psalm 139:13), He was well aware of the complexity and perfection needed so that your body might do all that is required.
3. Clear your mind – make an attempt to remove distraction. You will find that this will take some effort. We are so 'busy' that we do not often stop. But to truly seek God we need to 'be still' (Psalm 46:10) and take time to listen for the movements of God in and around us.
4. Be open-minded – As you journey try to do away with what you think God will 'be'. You may find that God offers himself in a moment of beauty, such as a sunset. He may offer himself as that small inner voice or movement that offers a connection or insight through your conscience. He may simply offer you peace.
5. Reflect – When your journey ends, whether it is long or short, take the time to reflect and offer thanks. In doing so you make good your relationship with God and will be encourage to journey again.
St Ignatius of Loyola was a great pilgrim. After his recuperation he traveled across Spain to Manresa. This journey changed him and opened his heart to God. This journey changed his inner nature, the exclusion of what was ordinary and a commitment to seeking God changed Ignatius' outlook and allowed God to be better witnessed.
At the conclusion of his pilgrimage across Spain, he spent nine months at Manresa where he committed himself completely to seeking God. Forsaking everything else, he was able to 'find God' and most significantly personally experience God. During this time he reflected upon his experiences deeply and recorded 'The Spiritual Exercises', which we continue to practice today.
I believe his most profound understanding form this period was Ignatius' understanding of 'God in all things'. With this thought in mind we are inspired to look at all we encounter with the expectation that we will see God. This leads us to bring peace to all whom we meet and enables us to live every moment in silent but prodigious prayer.
We entrust to you today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman.
We entrust to you, in a special way young people of every language, people and nation: Guide and protect them as they walk the complex paths of the world today and give them the grace to reap abundant fruits from their experience of the Krakow World Youth Day.
Heavenly Father, grant that we may bear witness to your mercy.
Allow the spark of merciful love that you have enkindled within all of us become a fire that can transform hearts and renew the face of the earth.
Brendan Nicholls is Liturgy Coordinator at St Ignatius' College, Geelong.