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Soul of a Pilgrim Video Prayer Cycle Day 1 ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess


A Blessing for Our Yes to the Journey*

Holy Traveller,
bless our sacred yes to the call
you have whispered to us,
whether a call to new adventure
or the call that arises out of loss,
we know you journey with us,
guiding us on the way of imagination to new paths.
May we travel with intention,
being conscious of encountering you in each step,
in each stranger, in each moment of disorientation.
We ask you to bless our feet,
that they carry us forward in this season to new possibilities.
Bless our hands,
that they might help us give form to our creative visions.
Bless our hearts,
that we stay open to wonder and numinous moments
Bless our throats,
that we gain courage to speak truth.
Bless our lips,
that we take in what is most nourishing.
Bless our third eyes,
that our intuition and the wisdom of dreams
be close companions on the way,
guiding us through the darkness.

Dearest monks and artists,

We are delighted to be releasing the video podcasts for our Soul of a Pilgrim prayer cycle! Huge gratitude to Betsey Beckman for putting these together and for sharing her gift of dance and invitation into gentle movement. Many of the songs have body prayers included so you can let the prayers inhabit you more fully. Today we release Day 1 Morning and Evening prayers on Hearing the Call and Responding

The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are filled with journeys: Adam and Eve sent forth from Paradise into the world, Abraham and Sarah are called away from the land which was familiar, Moses and Miriam lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Mary and Joseph seek a place to give birth, Jesus and the Samaritan woman journey to the well, the Prodigal Child leaves home and returns, Jesus makes his final journey to Jerusalem accompanied by his disciples, and the encounter on the road to Emmaus is part of a journey.

Journeys are movements from one place to another, often to a place that is unfamiliar, foreign, and strange. In fact, the Latin root of the word pilgrimage, peregrini, means strange or stranger. Becoming a pilgrim essentially means becoming a stranger in the service of transformation. 

A pilgrimage is an intentional journey into this experience of unknowing and discomfort for the sake of stripping away preconceived ideas and expectations and grow closer to the God beyond our own imagination. 

Sometimes I describe pilgrimage as a journey where we court holy disruption.

In recent years there has been a great reclaiming of the practice of pilgrimage, which flourished in the Middle Ages. There are many sites of significance from walking the Camino, making the long journey out to Iona, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, to Marian sites like Lourdes and Medjugorje. All religious traditions have some form of pilgrimage. Muslims make the holy journey to Mecca. Hindus journey to Kumbh Mela, one of their holiest festivals. 

In the spring of 2012, my husband John, and I embarked on our own great journey and pilgrimage.  For several years we had traveled to Europe on ancestral pilgrimages to Ireland and England, the land of our mothers’ ancestors, and to Germany and Austria, the land of our fathers’ ancestors. These were journeys to reconnect with the landscapes and cultures that shaped the imagination of those who walked before us and whose blood beat in our veins. 

Then, several shifts happened in our lives to open the way for a more radical journey. We experienced a call to sell everything we owned – home, car, furniture, books, belongings – and board a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  

My own father remained an Austrian citizen his whole life, even though he worked in New York City for all of his adulthood where I was born.  Two years prior to this midlife journey, I finally sought out the necessary paperwork to reclaim my own citizenship in Austria which opened the door for this great adventure.

We had been drawn to the idea of living overseas for some time. We knew there was a different culture in Europe, which was distinct from country to country, one where people seemed to rush less and enjoy their lives more.  There was less shopping in big box stores, and more local markets. We were drawn to becoming strangers in these places, not just for a few weeks of summer travel, but to live and see what we might discover about ourselves as our own assumptions and expectations were challenged.

John had been teaching high school for twelve years and was feeling ready for a break, even though he loved the Hebrew Scriptures he was mainly teaching.  Then there were big changes in the curriculum, instituted by the Catholic bishops of the U.S.  It seemed time to consider the change that had been calling to us. 

Now we have lived in Ireland for over 11 years and the pilgrimage continues, as it does for all of us. We keep discovering new layers to our calling. 

I believe very much in taking physical pilgrimages to faraway places. I know the value of stepping into foreign cultures and illuminating all the expectations I hold about how life should work. 

But I also believe that pilgrimage is very much an inner journey and experience. There are those who can travel long distances, but never see the place they visit except through the lens of a tourist, clicking the camera in an attempt to capture as much as possible but never being present.  

And there are those who may not travel very far outward distances, but the inward distance is long and arduous, and ultimately deeply transformative and rewarding. We can cultivate the soul of a pilgrim when we stay open to a way of life that is always open to newness. 

Ultimately pilgrimage is an outer journey in the service of this inner transformation

I love the horizon-broadening adventure of travel and the invitation of pilgrimage to go to unexplored places within me. 

The purpose of these voyages, however, is always to return home again carrying the new insight back to everyday life. 

Our Soul of a Pilgrim prayer cycle is meant to companion you on your own pilgrimages, whether a journey you make at home in daily life, or on a trip to somewhere far away. 

We are also featuring our Soul of a Pilgrim self-study retreat which is an online companion program to my book, which means we are offering a discount until the end of the month. Use code PILGRIM20 to take 20% off the registration fee.

Simon and I will be joined by Soyinka Rahim for our contemplative prayer service tomorrow on the theme of Mary, Mirror of Justice.

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

P.S. On May 2nd we celebrated the 18th anniversary of the founding of the Abbey! Read my reflection on this milestone here.

* A Blessing for Our Yes to the Journey is by Christine Valters Paintner from our Soul of a Pilgrim prayer cycle (Day 1)  

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