ON TRIPS & PILGRIMAGES:
1. LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
The greatest life-changing trip I took was in 1996, a combination of mission trip to Madrid, and pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima, and Monserrat. The mission was to an urban and very impoverished parish which had suffered for decades under Franco's regime, only to then have suffered the ravages of the drug and sexual revolution.
The missionary evangelist we traveled with usually speaks in the language of the country she visits, even without knowing the language. The most poignant moment of a healing service in Madrid was to hear her speak for perhaps 10 minutes in perfect Castilian (I had once lived in Madrid for two years) to the grieving parents - in the voice of the Father - that He loved their children and would take care of them. Another miracle on the trip some of us experienced was that as we sang in intercession or praise, we heard angel voices coming out of our mouths rather than our own. This lasted for days.
I highly recommend this document on visiting shrines - I usually now travel to local shrines which offer sacred space and time, of course, for the same miracles of conversion, healing, deliverance, and peace. Recently, I brought a young relative to a local shrine where he experienced the smell of roses in his truck en route, and then went to confession for the first time in many years. The woman and man he asked to show him to the confessional chapel disappeared. This was a favorite chapel of his own father who had died years before. (see: http://circulars.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html). Clare McGrath-Merkle, email@example.com
2. JOURNEY FROM PASTOR TO PROFESSOR
The major one of late was my journey from parish pastor to professor, which took at least eleven years (roughly 2003-2014). Early on parish ministry, I knew I eventually wanted to switch over to being a professor. In fact, when I entered the ministry, I was planning on being in the parish for about four years. It ended up being seventeen years (like the cicada, one of my friends pointed out; funny guy, he). Along the way, while baptizing, confirming, marrying, burying, preaching, doing hospital and shut-in visits, and attending a lot of potlucks, I earned two doctorates, published extensively, and taught as an adjunct at three schools before being offered a full-time position. My last day as a parish pastor was August 31, 2014. I am still ordained, but I no longer serve as a parish pastor, except to fill in for my pastor when he is away.
Dark night of the soul
During the last seven or so years in the parish, I became deeply depressed (I am inclined toward melancholy to begin with). I found myself in a dark night of the soul, struggling with my beliefs. I also became jaded with lackluster attendance and the other frustrations that go with being a parish pastor (don't get me started on weddings), a job notorious for its high burn-out rate. When I left the parish, I felt like I had failed as a pastor because we did not have booming attendance or any stunning, innovative ministry. We had simply persisted (no small feat, I realize now).
Now that I can, to borrow from Wordsworth, "recollect in tranquility" my time in the parish, I can see, on good days, that the successes and failures of a congregation are far beyond my poor power to add or detract (to borrow from Lincoln). God is ultimately in charge of the Church's successes, and the Church's failings are due to much more than my shortcomings. Indeed, how do we even define "success" and "failure" when it comes to the Church?
Now in my new career I can start to believe that my work in the parish was not all failure and that my time as a professor will have its own pain. The journey always continues, the star always guides, the nights are sometimes almost opaque with darkness, but somewhere out there lies an infant incarnation, as well as a mother who is doing some severe pondering while strangers kneel before her in awe because of a baby she adores but does not fully comprehend.. David VonSchlichten, firstname.lastname@example.org
3. MY LIFE IS MY JOURNEY
My life has been one of endless journeys, of contradictions, disappointments, joys, and courage. The irony of it all is this, when I believe I have failed, it is then I begin to see that I was truly on the right path. I began my journey decades ago embracing the Christian faith and deciding to become a Roman Catholic priest. This decision led me into religious life and secular priestly training and ministry spanning twenty three years and eventually had to leave due to poor health. I became an academic because I realized that I loved to exchange ideas. I never became a priest, but as I reflect today on my vocation as a lay theologian, I see a continuum in my life - an embrace of ministry by giving voice and face to the Kerygma in the context of my classroom and writings. Today I see ministry in a broader sense that previously I could not. In the past, ministry for me meant celebrating mass or being a missionary religious. Today, the classroom is my altar. My students are the mission territories I am called to share the Good News with. It took me time to realize this and accept it as my vocation. Being a stubborn person myself, the Lord had to take His time to break down my agenda-driven will in order to make me accept His will for me.
One important event occurred to me during my one year visiting status at Valparaiso University, while teaching a class on Religions of Latin America, I had one of my students approach me and ask to meet with me. I thought it was the usual student-professor meeting. No! I was wrong. The student wanted to discuss with me his desire to become a permanent deacon. Note that Valpo is a Lutheran University with great Lutheran theologians who accepted me, a Roman Catholic friend of theirs. The young man wanted to become a Roman Catholic deacon. Here was I not only performing the duties of a professor, but also the duties of a vocation/spiritual director. It was then it dawned on me that all of my journeys and experiences in life were not wasted journeys. They were meant to help me become the witness to Christ in non-traditional ways. I am now learning to accept them.
What the future holds, I do not know. One thing is certain about my life, journeying seems to be at the center of it all. SimonMary Aihiokhai, email@example.com - University of Portland
4. LIFE IS LIGHT-SEARCH
In my personal experience, light continues to triangulate my life. The love-light that sparked my life journey began in Iowa. The family incubator that awakened my wisdom-search pointed toward service to others in the religious sense of community. Sense of community beckons all to service, whose pinnacle work is realized in priesthood, in total self-dedication to God’s Work, in and with The People.
Youthful wisdom-light pointed me Eastward, to the Divine Word Preparatory Seminary at Epworth, Iowa. Thus began my 11-year exposure to the light of priestly study. This first move east was a love-move, the triangulation beginning of wisdom for me. Love’s process of wisdom-quest awakened in me a new-found sense of personal faith, the natural outcome of Love’s studied inspiration. The continuing triangulation of my vision-quest took me North, to East Troy, Wisconsin, where the ‘hope’ expectation deepened, and eventually directed me to higher Seminary studies at Techny, Illinois; my quest of love-light, of faith, hope, and love, was geographically grounded in Seminary triangulation - Iowa-Faith, Wisconsin-Hope, and Illinois-Love.
The maturing of Light-Wisdom is personal to everyone. In the 10th year of my Seminary experience (1956), clarity of insight was seriously pointing me back to the inclusive way of belonging to family life, and away from male-exclusionary living. Guiding me in my vocation-quest at this time was the Prefect of Seminarians, Father John Musinsky, SVD, (now deceased) who later became the first American Superior General of The Society of the
In the Fall of 1956, he urged me to continue on in the Theologate, which I agreed to do. Early in the semester he served notice on all First Year Theologians that by mid-semester, each was to engage in serious production of a Paper on a theological topic of importance and of personal choosing. The topic of my choice was “Religion: A Rational Consideration of the Basic Relationship of Creation to the Creator”, which became the testament underlying my decision to return to common family life. [q.v. google]
The integration of serious theology into ordinary life continues to be my life commitment, specifically with respect to the personal triangulation of Faith/ Hope/ Love in everyday life of the common folk. Quite naturally, and perhaps not surprisingly, my writings are structured in the trilogy logic of Word/ Light/ Love. Sylvester L. Steffen, firstname.lastname@example.org
5. A TRANSFORMATIVE TRAVEL
One of the most challenging and transformative travels for me was visiting a missionary friend in Papua New Guinea back in the late 1980's. I was teaching in Australia for a semester and had the opportunity to travel over one of the breaks. Though a religious priest while teaching at a University in the United States I had accumulated quite a few possessions, and lived rather comfortably − upper middle class while vowing poverty. I took one checked bag and one carry-on bag for two weeks. I wondered if I could do it.
As my friend made clear the climate, culture, simplicity of life would force me to face limits. He was quite right − it happened within a few hours. Amazingly toward the end of my visit, I came to feel that while not my first choice, if necessary I could live in that place among the people. I found a beauty in the land − often harsh − and in the people, particularly when we visited a local prison. When I returned to Australia and soon enough to the United States, I knew that I had been to a place that invited me to examine my priorities, that opened me to a radically different culture, and in both of these instances shaped my life as priest and professor. Frank Berna, email@example.com - La Salle University
6. MY JOURNEY AS PILGRIMAGE
Many of my strongest memories are grounded in travel of some sort. There were trips to see extended family in Georgia when I was growing up, high school band trips, trips to and from the college I so dearly loved, the long hours on the road when I was in a competitive drum and bugle corps, trips to seminary and then to graduate school. Through seminary and graduate school there were trips of varying duration to Holy Spirit Abbey in Conyers. There were trips to interviews for jobs I didn’t receive, and trips to the location of the church I served for six years. There was a long trip to the location of the seminary where I have now taught for nearly sixteen years, and while here trips to CTS/NABPR, chaperoning my sons’ boys choir and, later, high school band trips, trips for “pulpit supply” in nearby churches, trips to Washington for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty Board – taking each of my sons as he reached eighth grade. There have been trips to Oxford and Prague for Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy conferences. There have been far more trips than I would like to Rochester, MN for surgeries, tests, and consultations for my wife at the Mayo Clinic and its associated hospitals.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
Yu will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures. (W.H. Auden, For the Time Being)
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years. (W.H. Auden, For the Time Being)
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy. (W.H. Auden, For the Time Being) Philip E. Thompson firstname.lastname@example.org - Sioux Falls Seminary
7. I TRAVELED MANY CITIES OF THE WORLD
My first thought upon reading the topic was to answer the question: Where have I been; what have I seen and enjoyed? It seemed, though, that the simplicity of the topic required a deeper response. In my thoughts, I have been trying to balance the two. Yes, I have travelled to many cities in Europe and I have wonderful memories. In Rome, our bus driver took us to the top of a hill, with the Vatican within the city of Rome spread out below us, and the Tiber glistening in the sun. "Remember this" he said, "it's special." He then drove us down to the Vatican Museum. In Paris, for Youth Day, I met a young man from New York. "Can you believe it?" he asked me - a complete stranger, "Our parish is getting the Legionnaires! What is our Bishop thinking?" At this stage of my other journey, I had no idea who the Legionnaires were and why it was so problematic. In Cologne, I was left wondering how three grown men could possibly be buried in one golden tomb, the size of which fit into a glass case. These cities and many others were occasions of profound joy..
It was in China that I experienced culture shock. I went with a group of city merchants who were on a trade mission. It happened to be Holy Week. The Chinese we met were familiar with Westerners and our hotels were first class. It was the country side and the villagers who made the biggest impact. I wore my crucifix and many young people would ask "You Christian?" Not waiting for an answer, they would add "My Grandmother Christian; me - Buddhist." They were government workers and it was expedient for them to embrace the national religion. In Shanghai, I found one Catholic Church with huge gates across the entrance and each heavily chained.
As for the life journey that has allowed me these trips, it has been equally fascinating. I was brought into this world by very Catholic parents and I have never ventured far from the faith they instilled in me. The hills, (sometimes mountains) led into deep valleys, but there has been a constant presence of one person of the Trinity or another to guide and befriend me. I don't mean to be a Pollyanna, because as I grow older, and the more I learn, questions and doubts also arise.
As one day flows into the next and each year becomes another, there is work to be done, preparations to be made for the next stop along the way. Hopefully, I will always be able to follow the star.Sally Meyers, email@example.com