It began in 2018 when Catherine agreed to lead a group to Iona. We thought we were going in 2019 but there was no room in our preferred hotel on Iona. So, a trip in late summer 2020 became the plan. There were 28 of us getting ready for this grand adventure. And then came March of 2020 and we all know what complications that presented. With travel to the UK not an option, we moved our dates two years forward to 2022.
As we now gathered on Zoom during the pandemic, our focus shifted as we realized that we were no longer just preparing for a week on this sacred Isle. Instead, we were trying to grasp what was happening to us right now; that our current experience was leading us toward a Pilgrimage and just what does it mean to be a Pilgrim? And then just as we were beginning to grasp the meaning of all of this, Catherine announced her retirement. Oh my! The twists and turns of this Pilgrimage were almost more than we could comprehend. We invited the members of the group to reflect on this and to share their thoughts, their musings, their questions.
Ginny Hoglund-Gray began this way, “I googled the word pilgrimage and here are some comments that I found:
A pilgrimage is a journey to a shrine or a sacred place.
Synonyms: Journey, tour, travel, trek, trip, voyage
Pilgrimage usually entails some separation… from the everyday world of home.
It is an inherently transient experience, removing the participant from his or her home environment and identity.”
Vince Santo Pietro tells about his Pilgrimage this way:
“I have always led an organized life. As a Type A individual, everything is planned out well in advance and I know exactly what is next. I am in control! 2020 was no different: planned early retirement, pilgrimage to Iona, many projects and connections lined up, and so on. The pandemic forced a halt to everything and created a situation of not being in control. All the plans fell like dominoes. The pandemic forced me to give up control and adopt a wait and see attitude, with no real plans in play. I am not saying it has been easy, but my pilgrimage has been to focus on each day as it comes. What does today hold? My morning prayer has been, ‘thank you for the blessing of another new day. Help me to journey through it, finding good and right purpose…’ ”
Nadine Santo Pietro puts her Pilgrimage into poetry:
A haiku for a pilgrimage during a pandemic
Our pilgrimage now
Feels like the road has been stretched
It’s not the same path
Nothing is solid
All we have are each other
And a direction
Thoughts on a Pilgrimage
Making plans during the pandemic
Is like being the Eency Weency Spider
What impels the climb?
What does the spider expect to find?
It’s a mystery.
Does the spider give up?
Only if you stop singing in the middle of the song.
Each one of us was trying to understand where we are and where we are going while questioning whether it is an if or a when.
For Liz Gilbert, it is like this: “Feelings I experience while yearning for our 2022 Iona Pilgrimage. Waiting. Hoping. Tentative. Hoping. Anxious. Hoping. Anticipating. Hoping. Hoping. Hoping.”
Gretchen Hull entitles her thoughts A Time of Reflection:
“Almost 80 years! During this pandemic, I became A Time Traveler. I found this a deep time of understanding of who I am and where I might be going during the coming years. I cherish this time deeply. It all began in early February 2020, when I dug out the boxes of letters which were written during WWII by my Army doctor dad from Europe, by my mother, here in the States, and by his best friend, a journalist, also in Europe. Scenes from Rome, Paris, an olive grove in Italy became real to me. These readings led to a deep overview of my life, growing up in a close family of five kids and a dog named Heidi. College, marriage, kids, grandkids, and a career in Special Education flashed through my mind. Now, in Seattle, I look forward to spending more time with family here and connecting with my extended family across the US. This time has been a pilgrimage of memories for me. Looking ahead to our Iona pilgrimage, I am eager to, once again, feel a deep connection to my Irish Celtic heritage.”
Leslie Noson’s pilgrimage is a real part of life right now:
“My pilgrimage has been a daily walk around the blocks on Phinney Ridge that I have walked now for 30 years. They have been a lifesaver in this pandemic when I wanted to be somewhere else but here. They have allowed me to breathe in deeply and notice the seasons and the changes in homes and meet new neighbors like ones I might meet in Iona. They have shared their
stories and I have shared mine. Even if we don’t make it to Iona, I have a renewed appreciation of Walking and for those who reach out and join our stories.”
Richard Siegel says this:
“Athe traveler to leave his/her footprints over roads and paths to vistas unknown, but with the experience enriching their Lifeway.”
After googling the definition of the word “pilgrimage,” Ginny Hoglund-Gray’s goes on to say:
“In these Covid-times of separation, isolation, and remaining at home, could I be any farther from a pilgrimage? I am at a time of pause in my life; all travel suspended, visits with friends limited, no evenings out to theatre and restaurants, no in person church until all of my family can be vaccinated. I am not yet a pilgrim. But with faith and hope I look to the future, for my journey will begin again.”
Steve Jerbi has now joined the Iona Pilgrim group as a spiritual guide for this Journey and he says this:
“Alightly for the journey is unknown.”
So here we are: in limbo with more questions than answers. We are sharing our grief for the changes in our journey. We are open to transformation recognizing that this is not the journey we expected but instead the journey we are on. We are traveling together with faith in our God who will see us through whatever twists and turns lie along the way. So, where is your journey taking you? What kind of a Pilgrimage are you on? Can you find not only the path but the meaning of where you are and where it is leading you?