Sunday 30th of November, 1st Sunday in advent
PRAYING ON THE WAY
As Advent begins we set out again on our journey, we know that we want to arrive in Bethlehem, that we want Jesus to be born in us. You know, when I think about the end result sometimes my heads runs ahead and I tend to allow the journey to become more of an exercise rather than a faith pilgrimage.
Recently I went on a pilgrimage walk over several weeks to Santiago de Compostela. Hundreds of kilometres but marked every 20 or 30 meters with yellow arrows, some painted in spray paint, some formally tiled into the street paving and many other forms to help the pilgrims get to Santiago – to the shrine of St. James the Apostle – without losing the way.
It wasn´t the walk I thought it would be i.e. letting go of distractions and becoming more focused on my relationship with God. It didn´t quite work that way; the distractions just changed – blisters, muscle pains, uncomfortable beds and more. Walking, walking, walking – too far away from Santiago to even think about arrival so the distractions were all there were and so had to become part of the Way.
So I had to learn something that would help me to focus on what I really wanted. What was the simplest prayer I could remember? What would suit the rhythm of the days walking, talking with others, interruptions, blisters, where was I going to stay tonight and many other bits that made up my day, some more or less important?
After a few days I started to pray the Rosary, it was perfect for the walking rhythm, I could meditate on the mysteries, remember and pray for each community, my family and friends, those I met along the way. All of a sudden my day and my prayer became one – to some of you that maybe nothing new but for me it was pure joy.
I had forgotten the richness of praying that way and went back to remembering praying as a little girl with my family, kneeling on the settee dangling the rosary at the cat! When I was about 10 I remember being asked to say a decade for ´someone´ and feeling very grown up. I think it was only when I entered, the first time, that I learned to meditate on the mysteries and what a revelation that was. But it was all prayer and all good.
Somehow over the years I lost that precious gift, that particular way of prayer and I put it aside thinking that other forms of prayer were better or more modern or some other silly notion. Only now do I see that this simple form of prayer that I learned long ago, literally at my mother’s knee, has so much to help guide me on my way.
In the congregation we have always kept our tradition of praying the Rosary together but for many years I have lived alone and quickly left that tradition in the past not knowing what I was losing and I thank God and Our Lady for guiding me back, to follow the ancient Way that is, for me, simple and clear.
Gods Way doesn´t always have to be complicated, our mothers and fathers, our grandparents and, for many of us, many generations of our ancestors and past sisters followed the Way through praying the Rosary, they passed down to us a very rich inheritance. We thank them and Our Lady for treading a very clear path for us to God.
As I walked the Camino to Santiago I was very conscious of the thousands of pilgrims that followed the same path and still do today. Towns grew up and the pilgrims past through, railway lines were laid and motorways built and the pilgrims walk along side, through tunnels or over bridges. Development comes and goes but the Way always stays and always guides the pilgrim who seeks God. We walk together and we walk alone, we share a little of who we are with each other, we learn to listen and to risk revealing a little of the sacredness that lies deep within.
There are many who can walk with us, be our sister or companion on the way even though each one of us walks our own Camino, our own Way – it is unique but like Mary who shared part of her journey with Elizabeth – Joseph – John we too can choose some to journey part of the way with us.
Today as we set out on our Advent Camino, I thank God for you, my SHJM Family, for being part of my journey.