I just finished reading Rembert Weakland’s A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop. The image of pilgrimage is a central one for Weakland and one that resonates with me.
For Weakland, “the idea of pilgrimage means that perfection in this life is never achieved, only striven for, where the good and bad grow up together till the final judgment that rests, not in human hands, but only in God’s…. Life itself has often been called our earthly pilgrimage on our way to the dwelling place Christ said he had prepared for us.”
The pilgrimage image is a good one, reminding us that conversion is a life-long process. That none of us really, fully and totally gets it all right all of the time during our lifetimes.
Pilgrimage is also a good image because pilgrimages have both an individual and a communal aspect to them. Weakland describes it in this way: “A pilgrimage was the church in miniature: all the pilgrims strove together for a common goal, making many sacrifices on the way, suffering for and with one another, praying together and individually along the way, yearning for places of refreshment and repose, all the while telling stories and sharing wisdom.”
This description sounds very familiar to me from my friend Michael’s description of his pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago this past fall. It reminds us that we don’t undertake this journey alone. That others contribute to our growth and to our journey as we contribute to theirs. Neither they nor we are perfect. Neither they nor we have all the answers. But we manage, in our imperfection, to continue forward in our journey toward union with God.