It is not a word that is new or unknown to me. I have heard it before, even read it before. But it seems like such a long time ago.
Pilgrimage is even more familiar to me, a word that I have used more often, it seems. And recently, that one word, pilgrim, stood out on its own as a priest that I used to know during my younger days when I was actively seeking my vocation (and seriously wondering if the religious life was for me) wrote in reply to an email that I had written him, "It is good to hear of people who are searching ... who are like pilgrims ... then we are fellow pilgrims." For some reason, that made me smile. And think.
A recent television program featured the current Pope visiting different countries, even those countries whose citizens were not allowed to practice their faith. Something about John Paul II intrigues me, even inspires me. But then that inspiration doesn't go very far, or it hasn't in recent years, anyway. Still, I can't help but wish that I could see him up close. I saw him from afar many years ago. The stadium was packed and there was the roar of the crowd. He was younger then. And I was a much younger woman, still full of fervour. He, too, is still a pilgrim.
I was overwhelmed by his commitment, conviction and faith-filled journey and the desire of those people who wanted to practice their faith. Something touched me very deeply as I sat and watched. Being inspired for that moment, even shedding tears, means nothing if nothing is done afterwards. I wasn't sure why I was experiencing whatever it was that I was experiencing. It was as if my heart - my soul? - was being opened to allow the truth in. Never have I been forbidden to practice my faith. I am free in that sense. Nothing and no one has ever stopped me. There have been external factors, whether they were situations or people, that prevented me from fully practicing my faith. But it would be a lie or merely an excuse to say that it's their fault that I have fallen by the wayside. No one twisted my arm. I am still free to choose my path and my actions.
There used to be a fire burning within. I questioned, I read, I studied, I travelled in circles that would help enlighten as well as strengthen me. I was a different person then, and yet, I am not so different now.
So I am a pilgrim. And if it was the Holy Spirit that touched me that afternoon as I sat and watched, then ... so be it. All I know is that something ... or Someone ... reached inside and showed me that I am lost - or feel lost - because I don't actively seek Him anymore. I write a little, I read a little, but it's not enough. But I am not really lost - and I actually loathe to use that word for it sounds so melodramatic - for I know He's with me. And I am not abandoned.
I try to remember that. And that afternoon, I remembered it again.