Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fear, Health, and the Visitation

2016 Camino of Healing. Somewhere between Estella and Los Arcos
I've been reflecting on some of the events from my first Camino of 2016, the one that went from Lourdes to Santiago de Compostela. In it, I had to cope with a fever, hail, strained hamstrings, and countless blisters. Truly, during the hailstorm, I feared for my life (see Angel Messenger and the Comfort of Christ). But if you follow the daily postings on that page of my blog (2016 Camino of Healing), there's a consistency to it that I now see after the fact.

Pain, sickness, and the unknown create fear in us. They generate a fight or flight reaction of anxiety, and since we can't flee from pain and sickness, we're left with an elevated sense that we're fighting an external enemy. It may be true. It may be a parasite or virus living within us that we fight. But the psychology of that anxiety has its costs.

We get exhausted. We may start to despair. And we can give up on putting one foot in front of the other, as we struggle to maintain our strength. I've seen it in others. I've seen it in patients, in pilgrims, and in caregivers. And I have seen it in myself. And I see it in myself.

I'm waiting for my 82-year-old father to undergo a biopsy next week. He's recovered from a severe lung infection but the doctors are unsure of what they see in his lungs. This has my mother anxious. And that's ok. It makes sense to be nervous about the unknown in your body.

Somehow, though, we need to move past that anxiety. I was thinking about this as I reflected on the Feast Day of the Visitation (May 31). It's when cousins Mary and Elizabeth meet up and see each other with child. Elizabeth greets her, "Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb."

I imagine that this must have shocked Mary. Here she is, having traveled over 80 miles back then, while pregnant, while young, while nervous, and her cousin greets her with a most amazing blessing. This must have been incredibly comforting and loving.

And according to Gospel of Luke, Mary responds with the Magnificat.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded
the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold from henceforth
all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me,
and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him
throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel,
as he promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed forever.

I can't imagine that she was having these thoughts on that long journey to see her cousin. I see it as something that burst from her as the burden of fear and anxiety were lessened by her cousin's words, by her cousin's embrace.

It's why we visit each other when we're sick. We aren't all medical professionals so my advice isn't worth more than anyone working at a hospital. And people who comfort me are most often not the medical professionals.

It's our cousins, relatives, friends who do so, who lighten our fears and anxieties. And when I visit someone, I know I can't answer all or any of their questions of healing, but I hope that I can listen. I hope that I can hear,

So when I reflect on last year, and what transpired over the Pyrenees, or on the paths, or at Lourdes, I like to think that it was the simple stuff - a gentle hug, a tap on the shoulder, an embrace, a healing bath, a voice over the phone - that gave me strength to go on. And in finding that calm, in finding that strength, we like Mary can rejoice and find ourselves filled with a healing love that cannot be denied.

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