Always Pilgrims

A pilgrimage to St. Anne's Shrine in Massachusetts grants Victoria the opportunity to consider her life journey in light of her companionship.

A few weeks before Easter, our friend Monica invited me and my husband to join the Boston area Communion and Liberation community in a day of pilgrimage to St. Anne’s Shrine in Fiskdale, MA. This gesture was coordinated by a number of young mothers from a School of Community who felt the need to pray in a particular way for their own intentions and the needs of the Church and of the world. The day would include the recitation of the rosary, a picnic lunch, a walk around the grounds of the shrine, a visit to the shrine’s Russian icon exhibit, and Mass with the recitation of the Prayer of the Hours.
In spite of it being the end of April, the day was cold and dreary. The weather, however, did not dampen the spirits of the pilgrims. I was amazed by the number of young children who made the trip with their families. We were happy to see people we only get to see occasionally, as many of us live a few hours away from each other. Between children and adults, there must have been at least fifty pilgrims, maybe more.

Upon reflecting on my experience of that day, I ask myself what I had hoped to find on that day and what I could carry with me on my return to every day life. I always look forward to being part of a larger CL community which, for me, reminds me of my belonging to the greater community of the Church (the universal Church which defies geographical boundaries and temporal limits). Through these experiences, I feel more connected to my husband and my family, to my own small School of Community, to all Catholics and Christians, and to the apostles and all those who have followed and continue to follow Christ. Certainly, our picnic lunch (held in the adjacent parish hall due to the weather) was a concrete example of people sharing their lives and their food with each other. And of course, Mass, said by Fr. Paolo, is always an opportunity for spiritual renewal and sustenance and communion with other worshippers.

The icon exhibit at the back of the shrine’s gift shop was impressive and beautiful. Knowing little or nothing about icons (beyond the fact that they are beautiful and that I can sense something of their spiritual value), without the explanations by Momo, Fr. Luca, and Gian Luca, I would only have been able to admire them. Instead, their informal presentation introduced us to the symbolism, the spirituality, the traditions, and the history of iconography and the encounter with the Divine that icons offer to those who contemplate Christ through them.

The highlight of the pilgrimage for me, however, was the recitation of the rosary. We gathered in the chapel before lunch, with the children in the front pews. Fr. Luca brought rosary beads for those who didn’t have any. He asked the children questions that guided them to understand that, although we were making a pilgrimage to a shrine that day to pray together, we are always pilgrims. Our whole lives are a pilgrimage to our home in Heaven with our Father. Going around the church, as we recited the rosary, before each Hail Mary, anyone who wished to, offered an intention. The children were not shy, but with reverence and simplicity, offered their intentions for classmates, for their families, or for the deceased. Moved by their example, I was less shy about asking for my own intentions.

In the end, our pilgrimage to St. Anne’s Shrine was more than just time out of our busy schedules for prayer as a community. This pilgrimage was a reminder to me to consider all of my circumstances, the inconveniences of life, and the companionship along the way, as part of my journey Home. For this reminder, I am truly grateful.

Victoria, Vermont, USA