of my favorite books is "The Imitation of Christ", the title sort of gives away
the premise of the book. We are to
strive to live a life that indeed imitates Christ. We are to look at how He
loved, forgave, prayered, loved His Mother, honored His Father, and lived a live
of love for others. Jesus also
embraced the cross in accordance with His Father's Will.
Suffering was a part of how He redeemed our sins, he offered completely
himself for the love of us - took on a suffering that we have eternal life and
not have to endure that same trial.
When praying in the garden Jesus returned to his friends, who he had
asked to come be with him in this great hour of suffering - I am sure he had
hoped they would be praying for him, supporting him with their prayers and being
a comforting presence. Instead
three times he finds them asleep.
Each time gently chastising their inability to stay awake one hour with
him, and warning them that this alertness to what is going to happen to him was
very important in the avoidance of having to suffer the same agony.
to me, is this atonement for all those times I was asleep in
my faith, and a drawing closer to the cross so that I may draw closer to
Trinity. As St. James tells us,
if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.
I have had many opportunities in just the 5 days I've been on my World Youth Day
pilgrimage to take up my cross and follow Him. We had an overnight flight, and
if you have ever been on an overnight flight, unless you are in first class, you
know sleep isn't really sleep -- it is more like catnaps minus the comfy sunspot
to cuddle up in. We are blessed to be in a clean hotel , but it is a budget
hotel with the bare comforts - don't get me wrong very grateful for bed, shower,
breakfast - but sleep is still not at the usual premium.
So the first suffering we offer is our tiredness - which is always part
of a powerful retreat.
The next thing we offer up is food.
Fasting is a incredible tool for growing in your faith. Our Blessed
Mother encourages us to offer Wednesday and Friday fasts of bread and water in
her apparitions in Medjugorie.
Fasting is often mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments as a
sacrifice offering to God. It is a
way of depriving oneself comfort and reliance on self, and opening the whole
body to God's Spirit within them.
So it makes sense to me anyway, that the suffering of not having your
favorite foods or even sometimes enough food would be part of the Pilgrimage
experience. We are given
essentially the same food every morning for breakfast, and the Brazilian
breakfast is vastly different from American - though I will admit the fresh
fruit is not a bad consolation of the Spirit. *For more on the beautiful spiritual
practice on fasting visit www.livethefast.com.
especially the rosary. I know that
most people see the rosary as their grandmother or even great grandmother's
prayer of choice, however, this form of prayer can truly transform your
faith. What I think is lost, is
teaching on the rosary that allows the faithful to see the power of praying
it. Yes, it is memorized prayers
-but the comfort of those prayers, especially in challenging situations is
invaluable. If you think memorized
prayers or praying by rote is phony or lacking, remember Jesus was praying
memorized prayers (the Psalms) from the cross... since reaching for his iPhone
was not exactly possible from there, it sort of illustrates the importance and
even necessity of having memorized prayers. When praying the rosary, it is the Our
Fathers and Hail Marys, that draw our minds and hearts into communion with God,
but because they are like breathing, our mind is then free to contemplate the
mystery of Jesus life, death and resurrection. In physically touching each bead and
even mouthing the words, while our soul is connecting with Heaven, it becomes a
truly full body prayer experience.
Sometimes I am not able to concentrate on the mysteries, so I use the
rosary as a tool of great prayer for others, offering a prayer on each bead for
a different intention, thanksgiving or praise. This world is under spiritual
attack and the rosary, believe it or not, is a very powerful weapon against all
that which wishes to destroy our faith.
is not a sightseeing tour, though we were blessed to do some of that, the
choices of what we saw all related to our desire to grow in faith.
Christ the Redeemer, the Cathedral, and even the visit to the favelas
were all designed to remind us of why we are on pilgrimage.
To encounter Christ, recognize the needs of our brothers, and find within
ourselves where we are in our spiritual journey. Although we went to the beach, it was
not for watching the waves and catching some rays, in fact God made sure we had
an opportunity to embrace the cross when this visit was rain filled, crowded and
lacked bodily comforts. Pilgrimage is carrying the prayers and petitions of
friends, family and even strangers so that as we suffer, endure, and persevere
we bring with us all those who cannot be here with us.
In our hearts we bring each of you with us, so that you too may share in
the grace pour upon those who seek to grow in holiness and in hope.