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BUTTERFLY TENNESSEE CHURCH

By Jessie Arabik

“Try to meditate on the love of God manifested in creation,” a wise priest once told me.  I thanked him for the advice but thought to myself that the topic would be exhausted in about three hours.  Well, that was 16 years ago.  But I always reflect more on this during summer and the growing season, especially when I drive by the corn fields each morning and mark the passing of time by how high the corn stalks are.

Creation is the ultimate “refresh” button.  Every morning, we get a chance to be a better person than we were before – more patient, more kind.  It can be difficult to give others a second chance and almost impossible to give ourselves a second chance.  But God forgives us and allows us to start over, so we should try to do the same.

Creation is tenacious hope.  My grandmother had a rose bush that looked awful – more brown than green, no blossoms.  I tried to get her permission to remove it, but no way was she giving up on that plant.  It didn’t produce one flower for an entire year; she still believed.  Walking by the flowerbed on the day she died, a single red rose bud caught my eye.  Coincidence, maybe, but it reminded me to never give up hope, even on that very sad day.

OKLAHOMA SUNRISE

Creation is infinite.  Every season, every day, every minute has a new beginning unfolding.  And it’s happening all over the world, in every country, in every town.  When I think of the problems in our world, I think of the babies being born today and pray that they will have the solutions that we haven’t thought of yet.  People who will have lifelong friendships are introducing themselves today.  The story of the world unfolds one moment at a time.

Creation is evidential.  It’s proof of God’s love.  Why else would He have created things that only have a use for us?  He doesn’t need the tides of the ocean or the beauty of freshly fallen snow.  Maybe lots of the things around us are the ways in which He is showing us how much He loves us.  Are we paying attention?

Photos courtesy of Catholic News Service

Recently 58 pilgrims returned home from a 12-day pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima and other holy places. Not everyone will have that opportunity but being a pilgrim is still possible — even if it is just for a day. Jessie Arabik submitted a reflection on that theme and shares those thoughts on the diocesan blog. Others who would like to submit a blog should e-mail p.weber@diospringfield.org or r.drake@diospringfield.org.

images

To walk from central France to Rome is about 300 miles, not an easy trip at all.   Probably it was even more difficult in 1902 when the writer Hilaire Belloc recorded the details of his pilgrimage in the book “The Path to Rome”.  He describes and draws the people, the scenery, and the local customs in elaborate detail.  He reflects on the surroundings and on the Christian faith that he treasured; it’s an excellent book that remains in print more than 100 years later.  But what makes a pilgrimage different than a mere journey?  Definitions differ, but perhaps a pilgrimage is a trip with a purpose; to understand something better – yourself, God, the world – or to silence the noisy world for a while.

There is plenty of summer left in New England and lots of pilgrimage opportunities available.  Most of these locations mentioned below are around an hour’s drive from Springfield.  Why not become a pilgrim for a day?  Here are a few tips on how you might become a local pilgrim.

  1. Choose a location. Perhaps you have a special devotion to St. Jane de Chantal, St. Joseph, St. Anne, St. or St. Faustina. Great!  The trip can help you enrich that devotion or foster a new one. Here are some suggestions:

Sisters of the Visitation Monastery in Tyringham, MA:  A community of contemplative nuns.

St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA:  A Trappist monastery in Central Massachusetts.

St. Anne’s Shrine in Sturbridge, MA: Visit the church, the outdoor shrines, and the icon museum.

National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA: Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

Church seen through autumn leaves

     2. Leave the normal distractions of your daily life behind. It may be hard to imagine but try not to check Facebook, Twitter your e-mail or phone during your pilgrimage day. Maybe leave the radio off and try to immerse yourself in silence instead.

  1. Make time for prayer. Start the day with Mass at a local parish.  Or do a quick internet search on your destination and plan to attend a service once you arrive.  Ask God to show you where He wants you to grow and what things in your life He would ask you to change.  Bring Him any special needs for you, your friends, and the world.  In CCD, they taught, “Prayer is conversation – talking and listening to God.”  Most of us have the talking part mastered; try to focus on the listening part.

May we re-discover the power of pilgrimages.  Walking 300 miles is optional.