Dearest monks and artists,
Tomorrow we begin our 14-week online companion journey through my book The Love of Thousands: How Angels, Saints, and Ancestors Walk With Us Toward Holiness.
This journey together in community with kindred spirits will be a kind of pilgrimage you make from home. We can also go on pilgrimage to sacred sites connected to saints or our ancestors, but sometimes the transformative path is woven into the everyday of our lives. I wanted to share a couple of examples of how we might go on a physical pilgrimage in our own neighborhoods, which can also connect us to the invisible realm of those reaching out toward us in love.
This is an adapted excerpted from the book:
Make a Local Pilgrimage
Chances are you live near a church or perhaps even several churches. You could choose to make a pilgrimage to your local cathedral. Using the three essential aspects, make it a sacred experience by blessing the journey there, paying attention for divine whispers along the way, and then reflecting when you return home. You might look up the Church calendar to see if there is an upcoming feast day that feels especially appropriate for your journey and let that shape your prayer.
In a more urban area, plan a walking pilgrimage from one church to another. Research the churches and map out a route. Look up the various saints they are dedicated to and write a note for each of them. Offer a prayer to each saint as you make each stop. Spend fifteen minutes in silence at each of the churches. Listen for what is offered to you. Remember that what can feel like interruptions or disruptions to your plans may contain the sparks of an encounter with the Divine.
If you live in a rural area, still try this suggestion, but you may need to drive between sites. Try keeping the car radio off to maintain an atmosphere of quiet reflection.
Begin your pilgrimage by reading of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13–35) as a blessing for this time. Listen along the way for how the holy is being revealed to you.
Make a Nature Pilgrimage
You might choose to make a pilgrimage to a nearby place in nature. This could be a local park that you love or even your backyard. You could locate the closest forest, river, seashore, or mountain, remembering as you do all of the holy landscapes in scripture, such as the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, Mount Horeb, or Mount Sinai. Or you might want to use this nature pilgrimage as a way to connect to one of the creation-centered mystics, such as Francis of Assisi.
Begin your pilgrimage by reading Psalm 104 and asking for the clarity to hear all of creation joining in an ongoing hymn of praise. As you walk, let this be a time of contemplative listening for the more-than-human voices that surround you. Spend time with things that call to you along the way, whether a pinecone in your path, a smooth stone, moss on the trees, or a flower growing. Pay attention to the birds and animals that make this place their home, and call to mind the desert and Celtic saints who saw intimacy with animals as a special sign of holiness. Find a quiet place on your journey to sit for a time in silence and simply receive the gifts being offered to you.
The ancient Irish monks and mystics had a very unique approach to pilgrimage. They would set out on a journey for Christ, often by boat without oar or rudder, and let the currents of divine love carry them to the place of their resurrection. This is the place where their gifts and the needs of the community came together and they were able to serve fruitfully. This type of pilgrimage was known as a peregrinatio.
Instead of a literal journey by boat, you can work with the spirit of this pilgrimage experience by going for a contemplative walk without destination. Begin your pilgrimage by reading the story of Abraham and Sarah being called to leave their homeland in search of a new country (Gn 12:1–2). Bless this time and release any desire for a goal or outcome. Take some deep breaths to center yourself, and then see where your feet take you. You aren’t trying to get anywhere; the goal is simply to be present moment by moment to the call of the Spirit. See where your attention is drawn, pause often, and linger. Call on a favorite saint to be with you.
Cultivating this as a regular practice helps us to open up to peregrinatio in our daily lives when we are called to release our grasp on the life we think we need and instead be open to the sacred possibilities being offered to us.
We begin tomorrow! Join us for this online journey, where together we will embark on a pilgrimage of the heart to greater connection with the angels, saints, and ancestors. I will be hosting weekly live Zoom sessions with guided meditations, there are weekly bonus guest teacher interviews, scripture reflections, visio divinapractice, and songs with gesture prayers to embody our journey!
This Wednesday, Therese Taylor-Stinson will be hosting her monthly Centering Prayer session as well. A beautiful holy pause in the middle of the week to rest in the divine presence.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
P.S. While receiving a monthly treatment for my rheumatoid arthritis I was inspired to write a post in gratitude for our community, earth-bound angels, self-care, and the contemplative path. Read the blog here.
P.P.S. I wrote a follow up post on the prayer of encircling with the Love of Thousands here.