No. 44 Pilgrimage
We are no more than pilgrims on earth, visitors, with a desire, sometimes unconscious, for goodness, beauty, awe and the transcendent. Many of us are willing to journey afar, some, even in the face of hardship and danger, to visit places where we might encounter and experience that which satisfies that deep need, and where our hearts and minds might be touched. And then return revitalised to the demands of daily life. This is what moves so many to go on pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage experience is essentially personal, although often undertaken in the midst of throngs who amplify and help to etch it into heart and memory. We embark upon pilgrimage as an expression of gratitude and trust in God, or to a particular saint; in fulfilment of a vow, as a form of penance, to obtain help in the struggle against evil, to pray for healing (whether physical, mental or spiritual), to deepen faith, to secure Godís blessings upon a special undertaking, to experience peace afresh, and so on. In between prayer, listening to homilies, reflection, adoration, and reception of the sacraments, there often is opportunity for relaxation, sightseeing, refreshment, and conviviality. Whatever it is, to go on pilgrimage is a grace, even if the answers received to prayers and petitions may not be exactly what the pilgrim hoped they would be. And of course, there are little miracles that are bestowed on so very many. Miracles of grace, mostly. But also miracles of healing which do not hit the headlines. Ask those of our own parish community of believers and they will tell you.
A ‘Miracle’ for One of Us
One, that many of us know about and which impressed me greatly, was the healing that a parishioner of ours experienced in 2011. I had seen vivid lesions on his face, which had worsened over the months. That was before his healing while on pilgrimage.
Here are his words: ‘How does a person thank God for the gift of a miracle. Is just ‘Thank you Lord’ a sufficient reply to the mysterious generosity of Jesus. For reasons known only to Himself, I was a recipient of the love of Jesus through Mary’.
Early in 2010 there appeared on my face a number of skin cancers, one in the centre of my forehead; one under my left eye and a series along my left jawbone. For several months I treated myself with drugs purchased from a local chemist. When there was no improvement I discussed my condition with a local doctor who prescribed the application of ointments. This treatment however did not appear to have any beneficial effects.
At this time there was advertised in the Catholic Weekly a number of religious tours, one of which was concerned with visiting various places where our Blessed Lady had appeared. My wife and I decided to travel as members of a group visiting those places where Mary had appeared. Our last place before returning home, was Lourdes. There we took the opportunity of gaining increased knowledge of the life and times of St.Bernadette; attending Holy Mass with thousands of other people, and soaking up the atmosphere of such a holy place.
Two days before we were to leave Lourdes to return home, we decided to bathe in the water of Lourdes and asked our Lady to intercede for us to Jesus that our physical ailments be cured. After entering a small room I undressed and wrapped a towel around my body. Two men came and took me by the arms and led me into a concrete bath which was about 7 feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep. When I was asked if I wanted to pray before being immersed in the water I replied in the affirmative. On the end wall was a statue of our Lady and so I approached it and asked Mary if she would request Jesus to cure my face, but if it was Jesus’ will that my face would not be cured, I would accept it. The two men lowered me into the water and lifted me out. One of the men saw that no water has touched my face and so he took a jug and filled it with water from the bath. He poured this water into my cupped hands and I washed my face with the water and stepped out of the bath. The amazing thing was the fact that even though I had been immersed in a bath of water; my body was dry without being towelled. The rest of the afternoon was spent praying in the Cathedral and visiting the numerous shops in order to take something home for our friends.
That night after saying our prayers we retired to our room to sleep. Next morning I woke early, as is my custom, and went into the bathroom. Upon entering the bathroom I looked into the mirror and to my joy and surprise my face was clean without any sign of the skin cancers that were there the previous day. Truly a miracle had occurred. Immediately the question arose in my mind, ‘why me?’. I do not regard myself as anything other than a Catholic who attempts to live and practice his faith. How could I not feel grateful for such a gift ?í (V.T.)
The Great Miracle is Here in Our Midst
Most of us are unable to go on pilgrimage to far away shrines. But do we really need to? Here is real food for thought. Jesus, the Lord, is here in the tabernacle of our Cathedral. ‘Many people travel far to honor the relics of the saints, marveling at their wonderful deeds and at the building of magnificent shrines. They gaze upon and kiss the sacred relics encased in silk and gold; but behold, You are here present before me on the altar, my God, Saint of saints, Creator of men, and Lord of angels!
Often in looking at such things, men are moved by curiosity, by the novelty of the unseen, and they bear little fruit for the amendment of their lives, especially when they go from place to place lightly and without true contrition. But here in the Sacrament of the altar You are wholly present, my God, the man Christ Jesus, whence is obtained the full realization of eternal salvation, as often as You are worthily and devoutly received. To this, indeed, we are not drawn by levity, or curiosity, or sensuality, but by firm faith, devout hope, and sincere love.
O God, hidden Creator of the world, how wonderfully You deal with us! How sweetly and graciously You dispose of things with Your elect to whom You offer Yourself to be received in this Sacrament! This, indeed, surpasses all understanding. This, in a special manner, attracts the hearts of the devout and inflames their love. Your truly faithful servants, who give their whole life to amendment, often receive in Holy Communion the great grace of devotion and love of virtue.
Oh, the wonderful and hidden grace of this Sacrament which only the faithful of Christ understand, which unbelievers and slaves of sin cannot experience! In it spiritual grace is conferred, lost virtue restored, and the beauty, marred by sin, repaired.'(Thomas a Kempis: The Imitation of Christ. (Book 4, Ch.1)