Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

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Monday, April 22, 2019

The Pilgrim and the Tourist

Two things this month have caused me to write this. The first is the disaster at Notre Dame. I've touched upon that in my prior post "Sacred Spaces".

This Saturday, I'm helping out a diocesan group - "The Gathering: A Space for Asian-American Spirituality" - and All Saints Pasadena's Transformational Journeys as we head out to Manzanar National Historic Site. Manzanar is located in a desolate area of California, in the Owens Valley, about 230 miles from Los Angeles. And, it was one of 10 internment camps in the USA, where upwards of 120,000 people of even 1/16 Japanese blood were sent. The definitions of internment camp and concentration camp were historically identical until the Nazis horrific acts caused concentration camp to be linked with extermination camps.

As I prepare for this pilgrimage, and it's a special one as this will be the 50th anniversary of annual pilgrimages to Manzanar, I was asked to share a reflection with the group. The topic is one that I've pondered often, the difference between a pilgrim and a tourist. We are heading to Manzanar as pilgrims. I've done many pilgrimages. I've been a tourist many times. And they aren't the same thing.
Julz of Australia from my 2017 Camino Portuguese
reflects on our long walk. We broke bread many times
on this pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, with
lots of laughter, tears, and stories. Even our swim
to waterfalls on the walk here felt holy

Oh, I take photos on both. I laugh, share stories, linger, purchase trinkets and memorabilia, meet strangers, take selfies on both types of journeys. I sometimes have to grab a group or bus or listen to guides because I need the experienced person to explain what I'm seeing.

But they are different. And - I am adamant about this - it's not a judgment to be one or the other. A pilgrim is not better than a tourist nor the tourist better than the pilgrim. I distinguish the two because it helps us to know how to approach a destination. Whether we go to a cathedral or to a secular spot, we can approach it with a better understanding of what to find and what to anticipate. On a visit to a new city, I can be a pilgrim at one or two locations and a tourist at all the others.

Here are some ways that the two differ to me.

Pilgrim Tourist
FocusThe destinationYourself at the destination
ExpectationTo be changed by the visitTo see sights and learn from the visit
Common ActivitiesSit and absorb, perhaps skipping some of the popular or common sights to see, not making a long checklistTake the various sub-tours, read all the posters and signs, make sure to hit the checklist of activities and things to see
PreparationRead about the facts and storiesRead about the facts and stories
ChangeYou want to be changed or to know yourself betterChange isn't an issue
Visiting the World Trade CenterYou had a relative or friend who died there on 9/11 and are grappling with issues about lifeYou want to pay your respects
Visiting the VaticanYou're a Roman Catholic. You want to confess, go to mass (often), pray.A huge basilica, a square, history, spectacular art,and Swiss Army guards
Visiting the Golden Temple in IndiaYou're Sikh. You want to pray and help feed the 50,000 people who eat there daily. You want to see the temple and watch the 50,000 people who get fed there daily
Visiting the LouvreGet a pass and go multiple days because art is in your blood and this place is everythingMona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, Law Code of Hammurabi,
Gabrielle d’EstrĂ©es and Her Sister
Visiting the Grand CanyonYou care deeply about water and land conservation, Native American culture, natural beauty, creationYou care deeply about natural beauty and hiking
Your local place of worshipYou want to be transformed, pray, give thanks, be willing to be uncomfortable.You want to meet your obligations, hear good music, raise your kids right, be comfortable
When you returnYou know yourself or life betterYou are the same, perhaps better informed
ScheduleSchedule isn't as important as time to process and internalize what is seenSchedule is important to see/do as much as possible
Sacred landThe site is sacred and is respectedThe site is respected
Passing throughThe destination passes through youYou pass through the destination
Not quite what you imagined? Construction?Not a distractionDisappointment

Let's take an example using that well known phrase "It's not the destination; it's the journey". When you're a pilgrim, the destination does matter. You're going to a place that holds deep meaning to you and you want to be transformed by it. The preparation for it is important because you want to be ready for transformation. When you're a tourist, you look forward to the destination because it's something you've wanted to see and learn about; you prepare because you want to make sure you see everything you wanted to see and not find yourself disappointed if you miss something.

Lately, I accept that I enjoy my tourist visits to places AND that much of my life has been a pilgrimage. I may forget that it is, but I remember that it is a pilgrimage much more often than before. I will always be a tourist to new places. But I am rarely surprised when I find myself transformed by certain journeys.

The pilgrim accepts blessings for their journey because there's some fear there. Will your heart be open to transformation? Will you be afraid of what the changes are asking of you? Will you accept the ramifications of change?

With that, allow me to again share "For a Traveler" by Father John O'Donohue.

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:
How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.
When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.
A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

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