Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Response to "My First Pilgrimage"

Doing any outwardly religious act requires an inward response. Or it should elicit an inward response, I should say. The sanctity of a religious ritual is not the action itself but the spiritual change, enlightenment, encouragement, etc. it brings about. It is a physical manifestation of a stirring within. 

What stirring occurred in me from the romería on Monday?  
I went with mostly a secular intention of being a part of a national tradition, but I also made an intention for the trip (yoga style). I dedicated the time I had to pray and think on a few particular special people. But I in no way was in constant prayer, and while I thought of their faces when the uphill trekking got painful, when I arrived at the Basilica I honestly completely forgot about them as my intention. Would this be considered a failed mission?

Someone made a comment to me about the point of the pilgrimage being a sacrifice. Sacrificing for God, (like fasting can be) or sacrificing in honor of someone else. He mentioned that my sacrifice of sleep, comfortability, and time was greater than those who took the holiday off the next day after walking. That made me think; the point of the sacrifice is sort of a double standard: the bigger  and more outward your personal sacrifice, the more worthy others see the sacrifice being. However, the sacrifice must be first and foremost of the self, giving the broken self to God by doing away with it. But by sacrificing in a highly public fashion-- not even to the extent of walking barefoot or going on knees but actually just being a part the procession in and of itself-- you are in a sense going in opposition of putting the self last. You are putting yourself in a showy place for others to see your sacrifice or hear about it after the fact. Even limping around the office the day after the romería felt showy to me personally, as if to remind others, look at me, I'm sore because I sacrificed my muscles for God while you just slept the night away. Jesus' commandment is that when we fast, we do so in secret. When we tithe, we do so in secret. But you cannot walk in a 12 mile long procession in secret, and when saying the Our Father aloud every 10 minutes, I think others take notice. 

On the complete opposite note, I do believe that many people participate in the romería out of pure intentions, and that those walking barefoot are not all like the Pharisee praying loudly on the street corner. I felt a strong union between the other romeros, especially when large groups of people joined in singing praise songs together, or when I heard others praying aloud to themselves. This was a spiritual solidarity, similar to that I felt with the other runners during my half marathon or at with my classmates at my USC graduation, plus Jesus. Going with a bunch of other people on a self-sacrificing mission keeps you accountable to your purpose, even just through the presence of others with similar intentions. It is encouraging to witness the faith of other brothers and sisters through their own sacrifices. 

My own spiritual stirring mostly came through conviction of my judgmental mind and (as usual), my pride. The romería offered the opportunity to entertain both and it forced me to deal with them in a direct and urgent way. It is possible to be public while being self-sacrificing but it takes a heart aligned with the Lord. I am still learning what this looks like for me.

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