Further Reflections on a Marian May and an Awesome E-Booklet of Pilgrim Testimonies
I do not know the rules of blogging, but I hope writing the first two posts of a blog about the same topic is not one of them.
There must be ample evidence out there about why we are hardwired as humans to move quickly from one thing to the next in order to survive. I imagine our ancestor who pondered over the course of a few days the success or lack thereof of a hunt did not live long enough to pass along such a desire for rumination to the next generation, yet that "on to the next thing" mindset seemingly grows more and more prevalent even as the immediate threats to our survival here in the United States (large predators, etc.) fade away. The easy example is Black Friday, which has now crept up to start on Thanksgiving with certain stores offering their extreme discounts in the evening. The day specifically given over to reflection and gratitude has lost a few hours on the back end.
The job well done at work, in the classroom, or at home is recognized with a polite round of applause or a nod of the head before being tossed aside for the ever-pressing question of "What's next?" I have raised my personal objections recently to others about this constant grasping for the future. It also fits into what we expect of our pilgrims because we ask them to hold onto their pilgrimage experiences for weeks, months, and even years to reexamine where they encountered God on the journey and how the Trinity and the saints have answered the intentions that were carried. That final step of the Emmaus model of pilgrimage asks the pilgrims to come back changed. The change cannot carry through without examination.
That said, I probably would be sitting here working on "what's next," if not for the joy of having put together a short e-booklet compiling many of the reflections and pictures we received over the course of the 300 Pilgrimages for Mary in May. Active just two months ago, the project can seem a product of yesteryear due to the strange way in which time passes now. I am excited that we have been able to capture it in the pdf attached below. Please, take some time to leaf through it; it is worth your while.
The question becomes not "What's next?" but "What was?" What was the result of the project?
From the pictures, we learn immediately that one overarching result was joy. Pilgrim's selfies, with statues of Mary, church steeples, friends, and family, radiate joy through the beaming smiles, even those smiles that are found in the eyes while the masks cover the mouths. Those pictures also capture what was a multi-generational event. Pilgrims of all ages are featured in the photos. We at MCP are firm believers that pilgrimage is an important way of prayer for people of any age, and the response to the project confirms that belief.
The reflections capture what was a difficult time. Many reflections touch on the struggles people are handling due to the pandemic. People walked and prayed for family and friends who have been affected by the virus. A Felician Sister made her pilgrimage while in quarantine in a convent in which over a dozen of her fellow sisters succumb to COVID-19. The strength and determination people showed in trusting Mary with their trials continues to echo through the difficulties we are still encountering. That same Mary who heard our prayers for succor in May remains with us now, healing what was and providing for what's next.
The reflections also capture appreciation for what was a positive experience for those who took part. It is easy in work, ministry, the classroom, or homelife to shrug off what we do well. Indeed, I heard on the radio the other day that we need at least three or four positive events to happen to us in order to cancel out the emotions caused by a single negative one. Even in the "What's next?" culture, we barely hear the thirty seconds of applause granted us, sincerely, by those around us. We know the only thing that matters is what's next.
But, that is not only what matters. It also matters that we at MCP were able to provide people with an opportunity to have a positive event, gave them a push to spend time in prayer, in reflection, and to see that they are not alone at this time. I am honored by what was, and I would do well to sit with it again soon before launching into what's next.