I took a pilgrimage to Emmitsburg, MD today. I journeyed (a short journey) to the Grotto of Lourdes of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. I have been here many times, but haven’t been in several months, possibly a year. I didn’t want to leave the place. There were a lot of people there from all over the world. I love that about pilgrimage spots–the entire world is represented. God’s people are in all places and all times.
I drove North from where I live and realized I forgot my water. Which I usually forget. So I was thirsty, but I was thirsty in a different way. My soul needed nourishment. I walked around, looked at the many statues, mosaics, stations of the cross, sat with St. Francis of Assisi and listened to the birds and animals in the woods around me. I wrote a crappy poem. It was metered: most metered poems come out terribly when I write them. I thought about taking selfies with some of the statues of saints, but then thought better of it (I’m trying to put some humor in here too.)
As I walked back toward the parking lot, I was still within the grotto woods and I heard singing. It was coming from the chapel. There was a Mass happening. I speed-walked toward the chapel as though I was a person in the crowds flocking to Jesus on the Mount giving the Sermon. My soul hunger and thirsted for His word and it was satisfied.
Unbeknownst to me today is the feast day of St. John Paul II. I like him, not only because he was Polish, but because he changed the face of the Catholic Church–all Christians (of other denominations) like him quite a lot.
The priest who gave the homily talked about how John Paul had a lot of trepidation becoming the Pope. But he accepted and encouraged all to not be afraid, the same words Jesus used and the angels use. The homily went on, the priest encouraged us to open our arms to the power of Jesus, not the power of the world.
The priest went on reminding us of St. Augustine’s search for God, but also reminded that the Truth searches for us. He said, “We seek beauty, but are really looking for Christ, we seek peace, but it is in Christ, we seek love, but really looking for Christ, seek truth, etc.” Where the priest was pulling from is from St. Augustine’s Confessions. It is quoted below:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
Though I am a local pilgrim to the Grotto, I longed and thirst and hungered for Christ. Though alone, I am not alone. Though I put myself in darkness, dawn is coming. I listened to the EP Dawn by Jon Foreman on the way home. Anxiety, loneliness, fear and other things gnaw at me still, but I have to remember who I am. I forget often. Lord, give me (us) strength and light, grace and your peace.
It was beautiful at the Grotto today. I didn’t want to leave. There is something wonderful, delightful, peaceful, beautiful about a place that has been set aside, dedicated, cut out of, for the purpose of prayer and worship. This place has been set aside for over 100 years. You can feel it there. The same way I felt it in Israel where prayer and worship has been happening for thousands of years. The beauty and holiness of God–wonderful, powerful, terrible, merciful, just.
I love and have missed the order of the liturgy. And to share it with the world, many nationalities was wonderful and beautiful. Christ in all who are baptized–the Holy Spirit present among us. The image of God searing through all of us. All from different cultures, but one faith, One God.