An unexpected Summer Pilgrimage

 

                   “I hurry, when I am beckoned, in search of what can bring men together in the name of the essential”

Helder Camara

 

My first year in Rome has been an eventful one in surprising ways though I have been in confinement for several months. This period of isolation from my daily routine has had its time of deep distress as, like others, I was unable to act as to what I would normally do as we faced an unusual situation of uncertainty and deep apprehension. But, as days went by I came to discover anew that our spiritual traditions could help in overpowering distress and bring about an understanding of who I am and of who we are.

 

As I strolled around the Moorman library, the rich and precious resource that we have here at the Anglican Centre, a few documents attracted my attention. As I read through them, I was challenged and immediately became conscious that I belong to a community of men and women who for centuries have built up constructive approaches to use the power of love and prayer to bring into existence a transformation of the mind and of the heart.

 

Unable to enjoy a nice walk into the unique and magnificent pathways of Rome, the Eternal City, I had no choice but to see myself in the company of people who in their writings urge on all of us, without any exception, to see ourselves differently. This led me on a personal pilgrimage that provided me the ability to know of what is within my power and what is not. This experience can indeed help us to transcend some opinions or beliefs we have adopted over the years and how to be more creative in developing new ways to handle issues that can put our lives at risk.

 

As I continued my journey as a pilgrim, this period of confinement gradually forged my identity as a person with the power to understand that I need the other. Therefore, the crisis which we all are facing this year calls on us to forge relationships so that the power we each have, can be expressed in a collaborative and participatory manner to oppose a mentality that unfortunately seeks personal glory and gain. Today, in anything we do, we have to recognize that our identity only emerges out of an experience of community life. The spiritual wake up call I had during the lockdown episode allows me to nurture a deeper sense both of having a right and a duty in the world I live in and of being sustained by it.

 

This experience was reaffirmed in a most surprising way during the summer vacation when I visited Calabria, a region in southern Italy. My Italian hosts felt very proud of the religious legacy that their region offers to the world. The opportunity to be introduced to the history of Church life that covers a span of time of over ten centuries came as a gift that I will always cherish.  I am very much indebted to them for this wonderful exploration which has adorned my summer pilgrimage. It gave flesh to my initial wake up call as I visited monasteries built in mountainous regions which were for me an inaccessible and an unrealistic venture. But, due to their great sense of creativity, their passion to live up to their spiritual aspirations and their understanding that community life was crucial to their survival, they are offering us today men and women of the 21st Century insights that empower us to fight the difficulties and challenges that we face today. We are called to go to what is essential.

 

During this pilgrimage, I visited the Charter house of Serra San Bruno and was introduced to the way of life of the Carthusians monks. I was deeply impressed by the human and spiritual experience that I was endowed with during my visit, under the grace of God. The words of San Bruno are worth knowing: -

 

“Only those who have experienced the solitude and silence of the wilderness can know what benefit and divine joy they can bring to others.”

 

So, my summer vacation turned to be the continuity of a pilgrimage triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has helped in resourcing myself from the Spiritual tradition which gives a sense of purpose to my life. It has helped in affirming my identity in the Community to which I belong: the human race.

 

 

Archbishop Ian Ernest