The word still strikes fear (or is that wonder?) in my not-raised-Catholic heart. It feels foreign in my mind, resounding with unattainable piety and perfectly behaved kids.
Because, like it or not, the season of life I’m in includes people who are shorter than me, louder than me, and messier than me. They’re also people who are usually with me, especially if I’m traveling somewhere.
Not so long ago, though, a friend pointed out that I take a pilgrimage every week, four-year-old Captain Awesome in tow with all of his tractors and super guys in a green John Deere backpack. It’s a pilgrimage that’s so normal—and so necessary—that I’ve almost started taking it for granted.
Every week, Captain Awesome and I get in the van after loading said backpack, and meet my mother-in-law at our parish church, where Eucharistic Adoration is hosted five days a week.
There sits Jesus on the altar, exposed in the monstrance.
The church is quiet before we arrive, but we take care of that in short order. Captain Awesome runs in and greets Mimi, proudly showing her whatever goodies he brought. He then proceeds to take off his coat and his shoes and make himself a farm in the center aisle, right in front of the steps to the altar.
He’ll play tractors, trucks, and superheroes for as long as I’ll let him. He does it all under the watchful gaze of Jesus.
A month or so ago, he came up to me, concerned. He had just noticed the crucifix.
He’s become an expert at lighting candles, and his version of the Hail Mary is way better than mine (because of course we have to say a prayer after we light the candles).
He’s comfortable in the church. Maybe he’s too comfortable, but I can’t help but think that Jesus is sitting there and smiling. In fact, I can’t help but see my mother-in-law’s delight mirrored in the monstrance somehow.
Maybe pilgrimages aren’t so inaccessible to normal folks after all. Maybe they’re not as impossible as I once thought. Maybe it’s just a matter of swallowing my pride and preconceived ideas, grabbing the hand of my preschooler, and trusting God to lead me where he wants me.