Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pilgrimage 2011 Part I: The Beginning of the End

Before I left for Europe, I wrote a blog entitled "Whatever Happens, Happens", concerning a hermit named Makani Marquis, and his talk to Vancouver pilgrims about the omnipotence and omniscience of God. If God is God, then He is the most powerful being in the universe, and anything that happens to us happens because He either directly or permissively wills it. And if we truly get into a state of accepting what God places before us and want it, then we will find an immense sense of peace. I wanted to take all of that to heart on my pilgrimage this summer. I wanted this to be a true pilgrimage; an offering of myself to God, and in that way, constantly praying to Him.

Makani also said that we need to make ourselves open to that peaceful acceptance. And so I listened to him wholeheartedly! I brought a camera to take some pictures, but I left my cellphone, my iPod, and my laptop at home. I didn't even bring a watch. And so there I was, getting on the plane, with no creature comforts. It felt very weird for the first few days. I kept freaking out because I would feel my pocket expecting a Nokia, but it would be empty. I would want to listen to music on my iPod, but instead had to talk constantly to people, really take in the surroundings, or - God forbid - pray.

And that is where I began to be shown what it is like to conform myself to God; to rid myself of selfish tendencies and to let Him reign in me. Our first stop on pilgrimage (after 2 days of doing a bit of sightseeing and meeting up with old friends in Vienna) was Medugorje. We travelled down there from Vienna via a 13 hour bus ride, with fellow Austrians and Slovakians. We were in good company. But I was not ready for what awaited me in Medugorje.
Hooray for the Canadian-Austrian-Slovakian Alliance!
**I should start by saying that Medugorje is an interesting place. A very, very holy place, but a very interesting one as well. Every year, there is a youth festival that is held, and 60,000 people flock to the small town because it is said that Mother Mary has been appearing to visionaries there for the past 30 years. These apparitions have not been verified by the Church, and there has been a lot of political and religious controversy. But regardless of what you, as a Catholic believe (and you do not have to believe it)...there are a heck of a lot of people sincerely praying there. And Grace doesn't know any bounds.**
Just like a waving flag.

So yes, in hindsight, I was not ready for what awaited me in Medugorje. But you know what was awful? I thought I would be. A 22 year-old, regularly surrounded by macbooks, blu-rays, iPods, TV, and the general pop culture of death, is ready to just all of a sudden try to make a switch and abandon Himself to the Will of God? Yeah right. I would respond to things by saying "I want this." But most of the time, I didn't mean it. Not yet. And so God humbled me quite a bit, and broke me for Himself through prayer.

The last time I prayed that much...was the last time I went to Medugorje, in 2005. Except now I was more focused, my prayer more intentional, and I actually wanted to conform myself to God a little more. Still, that week in Medugorje was spiritually painful. It was like going from couch potato to a full 100% intensity p90x workout in 1 day. When we woke up in the morning, we prayed for 20 minutes before breakfast. Before the morning sessions of the youth festival, there were about 20 minutes of prayer. Before the afternoon session, another 20 minutes of prayer. From 6 to 7pm, we prayed 2 rosaries. From 7 to 8:30pm, we had mass. Then we had an hour of Adoration. Do the math. That's like 4 hours of prayer every day.

I remember the first time we all sat down outside to pray the rosary. My thought was "an hour to say the rosary? Hm, guess that makes sense. Different languages, people taking their time, yah. Okay. God, I want this." We finished saying the Joyful Mysteries, and I - not having a watch - said, ok cool. That was great. Thanks Mother Mary. Now a bit of rest before mass starts. But just then, the announcer spoke into the microphone and said, "THE FIRST SORROWFUL MYSTERY." My response wasn't "Thank You Lord! More opportunity to ask for the intercession of your Blessed Mother!"

It was more along the lines of "AFHDUFHDAI!!#@*!!!"

If you haven't read it yet, check out the intro to this series here:
Pilgrimage 2011: A Mini-series (Introduction)
Whatever Happens, Happens (WYD 2011)

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