The Spiritual Pilgrimage: A Reflection   Leave a comment


After being gone on a 3 Day Spiritual Pilgrimage from Lake George, NY to Auriesville, NY with the destination of The Shrine of the North American Martyrs in mind I wanted to take this time to write a reflection on what occurred while I was with some fellowship friends from my local parish. I also wanted to put down the insights that I gained from the Pilgrimage and then attempt to write about how one might be able to apply them once they find themselves back in the world. Let it be known of course, that while the Pilgrimage was indeed physical, it is also a symbolic and spiritual pilgrimage as well.

Shrine of the North American Martyrs

Brief Reflection on the Days

DAY #1 Thursday (9/27/12) – It was noon when I left with a friend of mine from my local parish, we go to pick up his fiancée and another friend that they know. We proceed to visit The Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining, NY and the home of a retired yet sickly priest who served as a missionary to Japan and China back in his earlier days. Our visit is brief and we leave after this particular retired priest gives us a blessing for our spiritual pilgrimage with the hope that we find what we are looking for, and after being in the car for awhile we meet up with another friend of ours at one of the many stops along the New York State Thruway for food and break at that point I take the ride to Auriesville, NY with the friend we met up with at the stop along the Thruway. We take the time to listen to CD on St. Thomas Aquinas and Metaphysics and then talk about it. Its night time and we arrive at the Shrine where we park the car and are shuttled from the Auriesville Shrine to Lake George Battleground Camp Park which strangely is one of the places I intended on going to camp at because I’ve been to Lake George many times in the past. I set up my tent, and fall asleep somewhat quickly enough, of course I need to adjust to the environment so I didn’t fall asleep as quickly as I would have liked to.

DAY #2 Friday (9/28/12) – It’s about 515 AM and I am woken up by the sound of bells and people talking and moving around it’s somewhat drizzling and cold outside, I assume that I should just get up at this time. I roll up my sleeping bag and take down my tent pretty quickly. I try to get my bearings and find out where I need to go, eventually it is all understood how we move around, we go to our designated Brigades, I am with the St. Isaac Jogues Brigade and our motto cry is pretty quickly understood, “In Christ Jesus! Strength in Honor!” We proceed to this Statue of St. Isaac Jogues to attend the First Solemn High Mass and I quickly learn why I should have brought my poncho as the rain begins to get heavier and my jacket starts getting wetter. After Mass, we are briefed on the Pilgrimage, and we move out to begin the 60 Mile Hike, today we will be doing ~25 Miles.

We will become accustomed to doing 3 Rosary’s a day: 1 for The Joyful Mysteries, 1 for The Sorrowful Mysteries, and 1 for The Glorious Mysteries. We will grow accustomed to hearing Priests walking the Pilgrim path with us giving spiritual and theological commentary. We will grow accustomed to chants sung in Latin, provided for each of us is a Prayerbook to refer too. We will grow accustomed to one another in conversations in between all these things, during the breaks we take, and the evenings we spend together.

On this the first full day of Pilgrimage, I did not make use of the Shuttle Vans which are offered to those who because of tiredness or intense pains or injuries cannot go on any further without some type of assistance. However from the outset we were told that the Pilgrimage needs Intent and is about Prayer not Pride or merely just walking, so I made it a point to see the Shuttle Van as a vehicle symbolic of the need for God’s Mercy and the admittance of my own humility. Once we arrived at the next campsite for the evening I pitched my tent and set up camp, I tried to keep myself dedicated to eating the nuts and berries I brought with me. My right knee was killing me and I just wanted to sleep, I brought a couple of books with me for spiritual reading but I found myself more tired and burdened than anything else.

The Statue of St. Isaac Jogues is Facing the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament a.k.a. Lake George

DAY #3 Saturday (9/29/12) – Trying to sleep was not going to happen, I woke up more than anything else both to the sound of snoring and to the pain of both my knees and the ground below me, it was the between Friday Night and Saturday Morning that I found myself dealing most heavily with Spiritual Combat. When I asked how one of the people in my Brigade slept he said, “Like a Rock” and I said half-jokingly, “I think I slept on a Rock” Nonetheless, we had another Solemn High Mass but this time despite the rain and coolness we were all under the same shelter. I still had to make a confession, for it is one of the requirements needed to secure a Plenary Indulgence of Grace during a Spiritual Pilgrimage, so this made me burdened and worried as to when the opportunity would come for me. I still received communion for there were no mortal sins barring me from its reception, but there were still plenty of venial sins that I wanted to have absolved. With these un-confessed sins, the journey for the rest of the day was difficult and felt my negativity that I had from yesterday only compounding into the 2nd full day of walking.

However, the day had its mercies while we were walking, on this day I made use of the Shuttle Bus on 3 occasions. The first time was before and just arriving up to the Lunch Break Location, the second time was just before our last break before arriving to the camp, and then the final time was just as we were arriving into the last campsite, at that time I found myself talking to a particular man and his son who came from Wisconsin while we were in one of the Shuttle Vans. Another mercy that came upon us was that the nurse who was not available the day previous had been available to help us during the lunch break and I got my right knee bandaged up and put some cream on it that would both numb the pain and warm the area to allow for better circulation. During this lunch break I also had time to do some more reading as well. A great sign that came this day was that in the mid-afternoon the sun broke through, it would be the only time we would get direct sunlight and could confidently take off our ponchos. However, these mercies would not compare to the greatest mercy of having been granted the time to do a Confession for Absolution of these venial sins. Upon being given Absolution and returning back to the Camp I found my disposition improved and transitioned from a negative and narrow perspective over to a more positive and enlarged awareness, and that feeling that I get when I am on a public bus back at home of agape love I felt even toward these people who I have grown accustomed to yet who I only just met. That night I had hot soup and crackers, I fell asleep quickly waking up only once and that was when everyone was getting up, I looked forward to the final day.

Dante’s Mount Purgatory

DAY #4 Sunday (9/30/12) – The morning had arrived, it was rainier than even the night before and I was tired with a knee still in pain despite some painkillers, but despite these things my disposition was better and I had that hope and expectation of arriving to the Shrine on this day. There was no Mass this morning, for that would be done at the Shrine once we arrived. I had some breakfast both from my berries and from the generous gift from one of my friends from my parish. In exchange from waking up early for Mass we still needed to deploy earlier than usual to make it. As we began walking I managed to hold out pretty well between chants, rosary prayers, songs, and conversations, I found it interesting how Christmas Songs were a morale boost for me that took the focus off from my knees making it a peculiar bonding moment. Things went downhill pretty quickly upon taking my first break however, because I stopped walking the pain in my knee came back to the center of my attention and I found myself confined to a Shuttle Van again but this time for about 30 Minutes talking to the same man and his son that came from Wisconsin as I did yesterday.

I felt that such a long duration of being in the Van needed to be counteracted by being a Standard Bearer, so I carried the Papal Flag, a symbolic gesture, and I carried it from a little bit before we got to the site that we would have Lunch up to the end carrying it into the Shrine itself which is about 3 Hours in between said times. The carrying of the Papal Flag was a symbolic gesture because, I had been an enemy of The Church for 9 Years prior, and God lead me back into the Fullness of Truth and His Church, the fact that I was carrying that Flag was symbolic for me and those who knew my story that I live a life under a new banner, one that I once tried to attack and one that the world fashionably despises at the present moment. It was only after the last Solemn Mass that one of my friends from my parish commented and said, “I saw you carrying that flag with much dignity and proudly.” I am glad he noticed, even if it wasn’t done out of human glory but rather as a symbolic gesture of Solidarity to My Lord and God. When we arrived to the Shrine I thought I was done holding it but since I was standard bearer at that I point I would be standard bearer during The Solemn Mass. My legs were killing me, some kids were crying in the background, but just before Communion one of my friends from my local parish was nice enough to relieve me, of being a Standard Bearer and then not too long afterwards I exchanged my spot with him as well.

Not too long afterwards we parted and went our separate ways with our fellow members of the Brigade, and my friends from the local parish who did the whole pilgrimage with us as well as friends from the local parish who came on the last day for the Solemn Mass at the Shrine decided to go to a nearby restaurant for dinner, there we had food and conversation, some wine thrown in the mix too and an afterglow from the whole experience. In time we too went our separate ways and by the time I got home and went to sleep it was around 1 AM Monday Morning. When asked if I would do this again, I simply said, “Sure.” The ordeal was and is well worth it.

Dante’s Paradise

The Wisdom Gained From the Pilgrimage

While I was away on this Spiritual Pilgrimage between the pains and travails of physical and spiritual exertion as well as the spiritual warfare that ensued on the occasion I feel that upon the end of Pilgrimage the lessons learned are more so intelligible (or of the mind that cannot be spoken) but there are certain insights that I have been able to put to words and I wish to share them with you in this paper.

#1 – When I was doing these Spiritual Exertions I either found myself being humbled or humbling myself and I didn’t feel like as if much changed in me, but after the Pilgrimage Ended there was a sense of awareness that words couldn’t describe, I mentioned the Afterglow. What can be said of this? Just Because One Does A Lot of Work and Exertion It Is Not For Nothing, Things Do Change, Even When You Are In The Midst of Apparent Unchanging, Things Can Only Change with Love and Humility Proven in Action and Difficulties. Endurance or the Virtue of Fortitude must be acquired or it will be quickly learned.

#2 – Grace really does unlock a lot of human potential. I look at the times when I cooperated with Grace, when I finally took part in the Sacrament of Confession I saw that the compounding psycho-spiritual burden of the previous 2 days was lifted that despite the journey not yet being done it could be done more effortlessly. I look at my human desire to bear the Papal Flag for ~3 Hours or more out of the desire to self-impose a penance on myself for being the Enemy of the Church for so long, and how I was able to effortlessly do this as well despite the pain in my body.

#3 – One would be amazed at how little one really needed and can still survived the penitential march, again another expression of man cooperating with God’s Grace. During this Pilgrimage, I must of ate a total of 5 to 6 Clif Bars and a dozen handfuls of Goji Berries, as well a small bowl of soup, 3 Vitamin C pills, about 10 Crackers, a handful of beef jerky parts and a small cup of JIF Peanut Butter all in the span of 3 Days and not feeling weak in the sense of famished. With this particular piece of Wisdom I think I may have just given strong validation for Christ’s own rebuke to the Devil that, “Man shall not survive on Bread alone but the Word of God.”

#4 – When I returned back into the world and my familiar surroundings the Afterglow was still so strong, I felt the overwhelming need to just experience suburbia in the most objective way possible and witness the vast majority of other people and their behaviorisms. That Monday after the Pilgrimage I walked to the local bank in my town, normally I would listen to my MP3 Player and I even brought it with me but I felt so strongly against the need to listen to it that I just took in the environment, it was a beautiful blue sky day somewhat warm and breezy and I saw the beauty of nature, not superficially but profoundly and laughed at the necessity of suburbia. As I got closer to the bank, these 2 suspicious looking men asked me for money and where I would normally just say no, I said no but turned around and gave them what I had in my wallet, normally if I had said no it would seal the deal but I felt a strong need to turn around and undo that initial response. I then proceeded to a local restaurant for lunch and there found myself among peers closer in age and telling them briefly my adventure the past 3 days previous without hesitation or concern about how they would think it was strange or anything. I was free under providence in that moment from social anxieties and concerns.

Lifting The Veil – Being Made Aware of Something Completely Different Even Though The External Bodies and Forms Remain

#5 – The Pilgrimage of course, represented our Spiritual Pilgrimage back to God, everyday was cold, wet, tiring, and dark when we started and when we ended the day, symbolic of the spiritual aspects that are found in our own life. The Path was cloudy and wet for the most part, with a break of sun at one point. Remember one need’s the Spiritual Eyes to see behind the literal physical occurrences. The walk was penitential the same way, our lives are a penance since we are called to a constant renewal of our mind that would be in alignment with God. The Pilgrimage serves the Old Testament theme of how we are Spiritual Semites, or more exactly Spiritual Nomads passing through this life unto Eternal Life with God. When people come to offer you aid and refreshment, one learns not to get hung up on these small gifts because there is an even greater gift to come. When one gets tired and feels like giving up, you remind yourself of the real goal for why your on this Pilgrimage to see it through to the end regardless of the physical, psychological, and spiritual pains that we endure and one sees why Love is everything, why it endures to the end. One sees how everything is a Grace, a Gift to us, this includes the basic bathroom breaks to the more sublime daily offerings of the Solemn Mass.

#6 – There was Spiritual Combat, the strongest was the 2nd Night, feelings of turning around and heading around back to where I started, and this would be symbolic of the world. Physically speaking one gets the sense of the impossibility to turn back, when my friend asked me that Thursday around Noon if I was ready, I said “As ready as I could be.” For I knew at that moment when that question was asked that was my last chance to forfeit the whole thing and so I was in this to the end, and to the end I stayed. So it is all the more real in the Spiritual Life, when I found myself coming closer to the reception of The Sacrament of Reconciliation that same question is asked of all of us, once you walk out that door and intend to receive it there one answers, “Here I am Lord, I am as ready as I could be.” However, one can see in the face of these demonic attacks as well as these doubts, fears and anxieties that Love is the only thing that endures at times, and for certain it is in these moments that one’s true intentions are realized and all the false intentions are cast aside.

#7 – The realization that the Pilgrimage was about Humility and Pacing Yourself while keeping the constant destination before your mind: This is Symbolic of the Spiritual Life. We need Humility to admit when we need help, we need it to be aware of strengths and weaknesses, I have said this intellectually but when it is lived in the more intense way for 3 Days it becomes intuitively grasped. We need to know when to Pace ourselves, Pacing yourself is a Virtue, and like any Virtue is the balance between too little or too much of something. In this case Too Little is just the unwise dissipation of energy and overextension whereas Too Much is just sluggishness and apathy. Pacing yourself is rooted then in the Virtue of Prudence.

Holy Wisdom

In the end my Greatest Hope was, is, and continues to be answered, namely that I would grow in Greater Love and Awareness of God in my Life and grow in the Virtues through that Love of the Eternal God. I am convinced after enduring the Ordeal of a 3-Day Purgatorial March the problem of evil is answered in the suffering itself and for me at least Love and Suffering have been reconciled in Christ Jesus, suffering is now the road to life, but let us not be a masochistic here, for suffering is indeed an evil but one that the Lord makes good use of for the Salvation of Our Souls and strangely enough to set the stage for a Greater Life and Joy to take place. The pains and travails we were told about ought to be offered up to God for only He can transmute it into something better than what it is and I find it interesting that while Praying and Contemplating upon the Holy Rosary:

We See Christ Being Presented in the Temple, in The Joyful Mysteries so that we may have a Spirit that is Willing to Sacrifice, or make holy through relinquishing creatures we have grown too attached too. For we had left our Creature Comforts behind, to even get a faint morsel of it on this Pilgrimage was seen then as a Gift.

We See Christ Scourged at the Pillar, in The Sorrowful Mysteries so that we may also desire a Spirit that is willing to Mortify the Weaknesses of the Flesh. We all endured cold weather and hard ground, the long walks and steep inclines and declines along the mountains and hills, we didn’t receive elaborate meals or anything of that sort, we only had each other and degraded conditions from what we are typically used too.

We See Christ Crowned With Thorns, in the Sorrowful Mysteries so that we may have the Courage to Endure in the face of Uncertainty and all that uncertainty entails for our weakened human condition. For this was my first time being on a Pilgrimage and even though I tried to gather as much information on it, a time came when you needed to surrender to the experience.

We See Christ Carrying The Cross, in the Sorrowful Mysteries so that we may have the Virtue of Patience so that we do not get frustrated and give up when all we want to do is give up. How many times did I find my patience tried and then only by Grace catch myself in the act and cease it? Plenty of times, especially because the conditions were so below what I as a suburbanite am so used too.

We See Christ Crucified, in the Sorrowful Mysteries so that we may have the Grace of Final Perseverance so that we might endure that last hour before it all ends and the Prize that we sought is attained. We all were nearing the final stop that Sunday and the weather was more overcast then usual but we marched forward and we didn’t get weak.

However, you know what else we see? We See Christ Resurrected and Ascended in The Glorious Mysteries as well which gives us a Strong Trust and Hope in God and in His Power in the face of finality and uncertainty. I think all of us had something on this Pilgrimage that we can say that our Hope and Trust was well-founded, I know I have as this article, is only the tip of the iceberg.

Icon of The Resurrection

Applying What Is Learned While in the World

#1 – The Virtue of Fortitude is very important to those of us who live in the world and yet seek to keep before the mind’s eye things of a Transcendent Nature. So you live in the world, but are not of the world how can this help you? Well first you need to do something, set your eye on something worthwhile, something Long-Term and commit to it, no matter how many times you fall down, no matter how many times you feel like giving up thinking that hope is lost you get back up again. Inevitably of course, you will find that the only worthwhile thing is that which you can love.

#2Cooperation with Grace is better than Resistance to Grace, recall the Pilgrimage story 2 of the 3 Days were spent with un-confessed sins and a burden which also weighed down my body and my mind while doing spiritual exertions which open one up to a wellspring of Graces, but until this sinful backup was removed it would be painful, upon cooperating with God’s Grace offered in the Sacrament of Confession I was able to more fully live out the Pilgrimage and enjoy the company of others. Learn to discern what God Wills, all of the time God Wills love and the circumstances of your life are those opportunities to practice that, I recall the words of St. Augustine: “Love and Do What Thou Will.”

#3Actively Practice Fasting and other Penances while doing Spiritual Exertions especially of a Petitioning Nature unto God, not just for one day but for many. For example, sleep on the floor, eat a meal a day and drink water the rest of the day, denying yourself some basic necessity or creature comfort, etc… The point is to offer something not because God needs it but because it is a gesture unto God signifying the importance it has for you.

#4 & #5A Well-Founded Conviction is not an enemy to man, it is what gives him life. The conviction I had been made aware of allowed me to transcend that day a good portion of my own personal problems and weaknesses. Always aim for higher and more sublime things, and the lower things will come and follow, but remember to be dedicated to the higher and more sublime things first and do not allow yourself to be attached to the lower things whence they come. Another example from Pilgrimage was that since I was younger I wanted to camp at that Campsite in Lake George and for the longest time I’ve wanted to be surrounded in that Fall Foliage in Upstate New York, never have I been able to with friends or family but funny how it is made possible while pursuing the Kingdom of Heaven, validating Christ message that if we, pursue the Kingdom of Heaven everything else will be added to us.

#6Ones real intentions, ones real hopes, ones real longings are made known not when one is comfortable and domesticated, but times are trying, when we are vulnerable and exposed, when we cannot hide or run any further and when we are finally asked what do we really want and what are we willing to relinquish in order to get it? Gold is tried in the fire, not to destroy it but to perfect it. Therefore, know what you really want and if you do not know what you really want than figure the most important place to start is the one that has the most importance not only for you but perhaps that which could benefit others around you.

#7 – Is there something in this life which you want and are trying to attain it with little help as possible, yet have still yet to attain it? This is where to apply Humility, another place to apply humility is exactly in doing something you’ve never done before, because it is there where you will struggle, it is there where you learn, it is there where others who know better than you or are more experienced than you will need to help you. Remember also to Pace Yourself, do not go rushing headlong but do not be apathetic in what you do for the Golden Mean of Virtue is founded in between these 2 extremes, find a strong inspiration for your actions and remember to rise above the desire itself with all the other things I have mentioned previously and you might just be mildly surprised.


Posted October 14, 2012 by jimbo9889 in Spiritual Autobiography, The Objectives

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