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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Pilgrimage and Prayer

The Lord blessed me with a pilgrimage just at the end of the academic year. About thirty pilgrims from the Shrine of Saint Anne in Arvada together with others from a couple different parts of the country joined together for two weeks of walking in the footsteps of the saints of Spain. Together with them I am praying for our families and loved ones, for deeper conversion, for a deeper faith in the One who walks with us.

These journeys are filled with beautiful moments of prayer and fellowship. They also involve discovering treasures of culture and history, and thinking about the presence of the Lord in the midst of the shadows and bright spots of the Church in the world, walking with those who need a word of hope. In all of this there are glimpses of holiness, and there is the provocative witness of the saints we meet along the way.

Today, I am at Saint Michael's chapel above the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat ... Where a spiritual revival began about the time Columbus brought the Gospel to America. After the reform of contemplation Cisneros initiated to reform this sacred place, Saint Ignatius came here and discovered the great grace that spiritual exercises offer the Church. He would develop his own spiritual exercises not far away, at Manresa.

The Society of Jesus Saint Ignatius founded would also be enriched through the tireless dedication to prayer, preaching and conversion of figures like Saint John of Avila who preceded and then supported him. Like Ignatius, the encountered the Risen Lord and their lives were transformed with devotion and the burning desire to bring the Gospel to that ends of the world. The Spanish Jesuits in turn supported the great Carmelite Reformer, Teresa of Avila. And, it is Teresa of Jesus and the 500th anniversary of her birth that moved me to take up this journey.

Together all these Spanish saints, and so many more, helped the Church discover her heart in the 16th Century. The heart of the Church is prayer, an exchange of love between Christ and His bride. Every Eucharist reveals this reality anew, every act of repentance returns to its living source, every effort to begin to pray is already taken deep into the greatness of this mystery.

This kind of prayer animates the mission of the Church. Through rediscovering prayer countless more men and women found the courage to take up the work of evangelizing a new continent. Junipero Serra, soon to be canonized, was caught in the wake of this great movement of contemplative prayer, even centuries later. Whether they went to the far West or East, the heartbeat of God's love resounding in the heart of the Church at prayer moved them and strengthened them to face every trial.

The spiritual renewal continues in our day and propels us into mission too. I do not doubt the indispensable role prayer must play in our new evangelization today. True prayer is an encounter with Someone who awaits us with love. He is waiting to entrust us with a exquisite work of love, to implicate us in His tender concern for families and marriages, for all those in need of a word of hope. In this way, prayer opens up new beginnings, a renewal of fidelity and joy that only an encounter with Christ can bring.


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