I’ve written here a few times about some of my experiences on pilgrimage: about how being on pilgrimage has been a place of immediate and practical reliance on God for everything, about how powerful it is to encounter various chapters of salvation history in physical ways and how these experiences bring a helpful and hopeful shift in my perspective.
On pilgrimage, outside of my comfort zone and with so many things out of my control, I’ve experienced God providing for me in undeniable ways. He has provided for physical needs, like when my sister and I were about to be homeless in Florence for three months and he provided, first a church where I felt intensely at home, and then a physical home that was astonishingly ideal and so much better than the place I had planned for us to stay.
He has also provided beautiful places of encounter with him. Whether it was vague plans that I had made that turned out far better than I could have hoped or opportunities presenting themselves through no effort on my part: I have attended Mass in Polish at St. John Paul II’s grave, found the reality of eternity intensely present while walking around Galway Bay, was a regular at a parish that is 1,000 years old and holds a relic of the Tomb of the Resurrection, and have had more experiences like these than I could count of encounter with the beauty of God, incarnated in the world around me.
These experiences have become a frequent touchstone for me. There are lots of places in my life and heart where trusting God can still be very difficult. Having concrete experiences of how he provides makes me at least marginally more able to trust in the Father who loves me, to be open to how he is working and to rest in my dependence on him.
According to St. Therese of Lisieux, this trust that we are growing toward is the way to become a saint. In his book based on her spirituality, “33 Days to Merciful Love,” Fr. Michael Gaitley summarizes: “If you live the Little Way, that is, if you recognize the darkness of your littleness, keep trying to grow in holiness, and trust in the Lord’s promise of mercy, you will become a saint.” We have to say yes and actively cooperate with what God is doing, but our path to holiness is receiving God’s transfiguring love and allowing him to make us into a new creation.
I have been somewhat captivated lately by the line in Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth.” It’s spoken as a declaration of Jeremiah’s prophetic role, but I’ve started using it as a post-Communion prayer: “I have put my Word in your mouth.” It is a way of reflecting on the immediacy of the fact that the “Word made flesh and splendor of the Father,” the Word through whom the whole cosmos came to be, has just been placed on my tongue.
The perfection of holiness that we are called to is not possible for us to achieve, but it is possible for God. That’s why holiness is not something we can work out for ourselves but something we actively receive: Christ in us. Of course, that’s what holiness means. Christ is the logos, the logic by which the whole world was created. In the Fall of Adam and Eve, we fell away from the full measure of who he created us to be. So, it only makes sense that holiness would be a new creation according to the same Word: a new creation accomplished by him once and for all on the cross but played out in time in our individual lives.
In the Eucharist, we step out of time and into that Paschal Mystery. We lay down the material of our lives — all that we are — on the altar at the offertory and are incorporated into his great offering to the Father. He changes our offering into his Body and Blood and pours himself back into us. This is how we become holy: by receiving Christ’s love and being formed by it. In the Eucharist, it happens physically. He has put his Word in my mouth and that Word is re-creating me — slowly, sometimes painfully — but always into the full stature of Christ, leading me into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
This receptivity to the love of God is the center of our call, it is the pattern we learn in the sacraments and is also the goal of the habit of dependence that I have grown in on pilgrimage.
If you are a young adult (19-29) and the idea of growing in dependence and trust in the Father on pilgrimage is something that is pulling at your heart, I would like to invite you to prayerfully consider applying to be a part of the upcoming National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Small groups of young adults will commit a substantial chunk of their summer to travel with the Eucharist on different routes across the country to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. The deadline to apply to be one of them is Nov. 28. More information can be found at form.jetform.com/232046483054048.
But whether or not that pilgrimage is for you, all of us are called to an ever-deepening trust in God and receptivity to the love of the Trinity, present to us always and everywhere, but physically with us in the Eucharist.