No, not the kind that wears buckles on the hat and shoes. The religious kind. Hoo-boy. Never thought that would be me, but I guess God had a different plan. Imagine that.
So what is a modern-day pilgrim? My treasured, brown Webster’s New World Dictionary, defines a pilgrim as one who makes “a journey, especially to a shrine or holy place.” Somehow, that doesn’t quite capture it. I think a pilgrimage is a journey made with an open mind and heart to the experience of said visit to the holy place. At least that’s how I began my pilgrimage.
I just returned from Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is a small, fairly obscure village in former Communist Yugoslavia. In that village, since June of 1981, the Blessed Mother has appeared to six visionaries, who started out as young people, ages 16 down to 10, who have grown to be mostly middle-aged joyful, prayerful, normal, kind, men and women. Not that I personally met any of them, but I did see and hear a couple of them speak. By the way, they have been medically certified as normal and sane. I can’t say that I have that piece of paper.
It was a long and arduous post 9/11 journey, from Charlotte to Toronto to Munich to Split. I had never even heard of Split. Then a three hour bus ride to Medjugorje. The village is dominated by a very large, double-spired church, with Cross Mountain and Apparition Hill at points equidistant to each other. We spent nine days climbing the Hill, going to Mass twice a day, praying the rosary twice or three times a day, climbing the Mountain, hearing talks and testimonials, and well, I’m not proud of this, but shopping. At least the shopping was for sacramentals and blessed items to bring back, I tell myself.
This place is what the rest of the world should be like…accepting of differences. The Italians are pushy. So what! That’s just them. They are loving and faithful people. The Americans talk too much and say little. So what! They are generous. The Protestants don’t pray The Way of the Cross. So what! They respect Christ’s Passion and suffer for Him the same as Catholics.
The experiences I had do not center around the visions of the Blessed Mother. I haven’t had any of those. My experiences and impressions center on what the Blessed Mother calls us to do. Love. That’s it.
I am working very, very hard to keep that message in my heart and at the center of my life. And with prayer, it’s possible.