As we celebrate the American tradition of Thanksgiving and now begin the journey towards Christmas, it may not surprise many that my thoughts turned to the original Pilgrims that set sail from England and arrived on the shores of our beautiful and blessed Nation in 1620. My intention in this brief post is not to dive deep in the history of this moment in time, for it is clearly memorialized. One particular viewpoint is the 1620 project.
The direction was certain. The route not so clear. What awaited them on the other side, other than the freedom they sought, was also not so certain. I can only imagine the discussion and discernment that went into the preparation for the journey, taking into account the length of time, conditions on the ship, conditions on the new land, what is being left behind, and what will be created over the length of time that the new life and new society is created. Certainly this was both a group effort as well as a personal spiritual moment to gather belonging and thoughts prior to boarding the ship.
You prepare the best you can as a pilgrim.
In light of remembering this occasion for which we give thanks, I reflect on the essential items I would bring on a pilgrimage. When I think of pilgrimage, I envision those pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela or Jerusalem. Not a surprise that the journey has a religious connotation; seeing as how the larger life pilgrimage is the journey to eternal life. Nonetheless, the items I would bring on this journey would also be useful on a voyage to the new world.
As an idealist, I would limit myself to a small rucksack, a stick, a book, beads, a pad and of course shoes. Allow me to elaborate.
The rucksack would be the one I used during my travels in Europe and North America in my younger days (yes, I still have it as I still use it). My Spanish friends called it the ‘frijol’ or bean. Yes, it is worth a snicker. The backpack only carried about three days worth of clothing and was green. When it was neatly packed and sitting on my back it did in fact look like a small green bean.
A walking stick would be a must. The walking stick comes in handy (no pun intended). It helps on the longer segments when the legs are tired with a few more kilometers to go. It also helps when maneuvering the inclines and declines fraught with rocks and roots. Sticks can also be a useful tool in fending off animals that think lunch just walked down the road.
I would bring the Bible. The same Bible I’ve been using for nearly twenty years now but any would do. Granted the Bible is not actually a book but a library of books. When it is time for prayer it can be easily used for lectio divina or to recite the psalms. When the path is lost or inspiration is needed there are books of wisdom and proverbs. When some diversion is needed the Bible is replete with adventure. It covers all the bases. Along with this book I would bring my Holy Rosary or the beads as they are affectionately called. They aid in prayerful contemplation of the Bible and a contemplative tool while journeying along the path.
A journal with trusty pen(s) is also a must have in the rucksack. Day by day, week by week, thoughts and experiences deserve to be memorialized. They serve as maps, especially if you hit a waypoint in life. It is also a great gift to look back so much time after to remember where you once were and how far you’ve come on life’s journey.
Finally, I would bring shoes. Yes, a second pair. Now I fancy myself to think they would be a pair of running shoes. I reckon there would be an opportunity to stop and take in a run, or run a bit of the way, or at least have a second pair of shoes for when the first pair runs a hole and additional support is needed.
I submit to you this is the ideal list of items I would bring on pilgrimage.
As a pilgrim you prepare the best you can.
Take some time and think: what are those essential items you would you bring on your pilgrimage?