Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Backwards Pilgrimage

I love going on pilgrimages. I was fortunate to be a pilgrim at World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada in 2002. While I have been in the convent, I have gone on pilgrimages with my fellow Sisters as well as with my family to a few different shrines in Wisconsin. I have Assisi on my bucket list, and I have what I consider a pipe dream of walking the Camino. I sometimes walk it vicariously through Martin Sheen in the film The Way.

Whenever I've been on a pilgrimage, I'm always grateful for the holy respite, but conscious to remind myself that God is fully active everywhere and that I can carry the graces of the pilgrimage with me. As humans, we have a tendency to believe in a spiritual geographical cure, but God is present here and now.

This week at St. Theresa Church, we had what could be described as a backwards pilgrimage. Some of you have probably attended one. The International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima was brought here for a brief visit. One of the visionaries, Lucia, had described what Mama Mary looked like to Jose Thedim. He first made a statue of her to be kept at the shrine in Fatima. Then in 1947, he sculpted the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue that has traveled the world ever since. Instead of going on a pilgrimage to see this famous statue, the custodians of the statue brought her to us.

Isn't that exactly how God is? It is not we who seek Him; it is He who seeks us.

Yesterday, I took time to prepare my students for the visit. We watched The Day the Sun Danced.

After the video, I pulled up the Wikipedia page for us to skim as a class. As soon as I did, one of my students recognized the "somewhat credible" site and said, "Wait! This story is real?!" Another student said, "That means it's history!" (History is a buzzword in my classroom right now because that is the social studies unit we are in, and they just learned what that word means not too long ago.)

This morning, my students were wiggly on the way to the all-school Mass. I turned around and saw them peering into the Church to catch glimpses of the statue. I heard their whispers: "She's in there! I saw her!" I quickly affirmed their excitement but reminded them that we still needed to be quiet in God's house. Fortunately, we sit in the front of the Church so they got to stare at her as much as their little hearts desired. During the homily, Father Arnel called up one of the Custodians, Patrick Sabat, to share the story of Fatima and talk about the statue. My little theologians kept raising their hands and nodding their heads with elation.

Later this morning, I told my students that even though we usually pray a decade of the rosary after lunch/recess, we could go kneel under the statue and pray it, but we had to whisper the prayers because there would be other people praying. They were thrilled! While we were there, they were so reverent and prayerful. It was truly inspiring for me, and I'm sure it was inspiring for the other adults in the church, especially considering the story of Fatima.

I made sure to remind them that they were really praying to Jesus and that we don't pray to Mary but we ask her to pray for us. They nodded. I drill that into them, but it's important.

Every year, I entrust my students to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. "Mary, bring them to your Son." That she does.


  1. Hi- I would like to request prayers for the victims of rape and abuse by members of the Catholic Church. Many of them were children when they were attacked or abused. This is also an ongoing crisis, with new victims each year, worldwide. I will remember them and their stories forever, but for the healing to truly take place, it will take the voices and efforts of many. To paraphrase a poem by an Indian schoolgirl, "Too many Catholics, in too many countries, speak the same language-- of silence." Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! This issue is very dear to my heart and takes up a significant portion of my daily prayer. It is sexual abuse AND spiritual abuse, which is terrible. For some, they are unable to enter a Church without getting flashbacks. Can we blame them for missing Mass? Of course not, and those who abused them have a lot to answer for when they face Jesus.

      I personally have some ideas of how we as a Church can do more for survivors of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church, particularly in leadership roles. We have a lot of work to do!