Will F. Peterson
Walking with the Saints 2020 - A Review of the Statistics
"It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics." - George Bernard Shaw
When I look at this screenshot of our Walking with the Saints 2020 map, that quote comes to mind. Someone could count up each blue and white dot and call it a day, saying, "So what? There are so many. Look at the abundance of space between most of those dots." The response to such a statement could be more stats: 79 total pledged pilgrimages, 317 total pledged pilgrims. Those are bigger numbers than the number of blue and white dots. Surely, that is something to gain attention, to impress the initially indifferent.
Still, they remain statistics of which could be said, "Why not more? More would have been better." The numbers do not cause someone to inhale sharply, physically reacting to a number beyond scale and any relative amount.
The quote above sticks with me as I look at the map because I realize I cannot count myself as one of the truly intelligent because I am that someone who questions the stats and is not moved by them. I am the one to say, "So what?"
It is only after spending more time with the map above, reflecting on what I know of those blue and white dots, that I begin to be moved. I have to look hard and understand precisely what those dots mean.
They mean people stopped the everyday motion of their lives to actually physically walk with a saint of the Catholic Church to a specific site to bring intentions to God and that saint at the chosen site. That alone is something to move me, yet they mean something even more than that. Specific individuals, Tim, Chris, Katie, Gigi, Rick, Major, Claudia, Alison, Anne, Ted, and so many others, walked, sharing prayer intentions they carried so that others might carry those same intentions. We had a pilgrim walk over 20 miles in a day. We others take their daughters to local parishes to pray with favorite saints. We had a college student make the journey across campus as a pilgrimage to the local Newman Center and report back that she felt the presence of the saint with whom she walked. Groups gathered together to build community in walking with Servant of God Emil Kapaun and the newly beatified Fr. Michael McGivney, two great American saints. Others gathered together to walk with Our Lady under her different titles.
Those stories move me. The fact that anyone walked with the saints and was willing to share it with us moves me. It is not a numbers game. All that matters is that people have a spiritually fruitful experience on pilgrimage that leads them like the disciples at Emmaus before them to run back to their home communities changed and set on fire to do the work of Christ. If even one person out of the 317 who walked in October feels that flame, then no statistics are needed.
One pilgrim wrote in an email that he was glad he had walked with St. Benedict on pilgrimage and that he hopes we can do this again next year. That's enough for me. It's marked on my calendar, and I will pray for all those who walked this year and all those who will walk this coming year in Walking with the Saints 2021 with the intention that they do not become statistics, but remain seen as the sons and daughters of Christ that they are.
Our Lady of the Way, pray for us.