The audience with Pope Francis, the content of which was taken up in my subsequent letter to the Fraternity, highlighted from the first moment what the Holy Father has at heart as pastor of the whole Church. It does not seem superfluous to return to it at the beginning of our Spiritual Exercises.
What does the Pope have at heart? He told us in his succinct style: the new evangelization, the urgent need to reawaken “the life of faith in the minds and hearts of our contemporaries. Faith is a gift of God; however, it is important that we Christians demonstrate that we live faith in a concrete way, through love, harmony, joy, suffering, because this gives rise to questions, as those that were raised at the beginning of the Church’s journey: Why do they live that way? What urges them on? [...] [The] heart of evangelization [...] [is] the witness of faith and charity. What we especially need in these times are credible witnesses who make the Gospel visible by their lives as well as by their words, and who reawaken the attraction for Jesus Christ, for the beauty of God. [...] We need Christians who make God’s mercy and tenderness for every creature visible to the men of our day.”
I have been bitten by the pilgrimage "bug" and have wanted to make a long pilgrimage for some time. While at the Fraternity Exercises last week, this desire was fanned into a roaring fire. So this week I have already made two trips to Youngstown, to two different Marian shrines: Our Lady Consoler of the Afflicted and Our Lady of Lebanon. In addition, I've been scrutinizing google maps (in walking mode), and driving slowly up and down many, many streets in Youngstown, studying their borders for sidewalks or grassy areas or lighter traffic. Throughout all of this work, I have been meditating on the question: Why plan this pilgrimage for others? After all, I can go walking on my own, at any time. But there are two passions behind this pining for others to accompany me: the first is that I love them, I love you. It is the experience of excess love that feels uncomfortable (to the point of pain) until it is expressed in a concrete way. But also, I am so tremblingly aware that I am not me without the others. I am not me without the Body of Christ. Without Him, all of you, I'm a temporary, sad thing with no density and surely will be forgotten in the flood of time. With Him, with all of you, my identity takes on meaning, weight, fullness. I am in great need: the need to love and to be loved. The pilgrimage I am planning will take place on August 15 (a Friday), beginning at 7am with Mass in the Shrine of Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted. We will walk 9 miles, mostly through urban and residential areas, to arrive at Our Lady of Lebanon, where we will celebrate another Mass. The idea of Christian witness has been uppermost as I've been considering all of these things - not because I want to "show" the people of Youngstown something I think they ought to see, but because I want to live my unity with others in a way that is visible, in a way that can express this love in my heart. - Suzanne