H.E. Michael Grace’s Reflection to Pilgrims who participated in the Our Lady of Good Help Virtual Pilgrimage on August 6, 2020.
Welcome to the annual pilgrimage of the U.S. Associations to Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin! We will be meeting and walking the path together for one hour each of the next three days, beginning today, August 6th.
My name is Michael Grace, President of the Western Association, and I am very pleased to share a moment with you about pilgrimage.
Most of us have been on pilgrimage before, and we know that it is good for the soul. But why?
From its origins, the Order of St. John of Jerusalem has had pilgrimage at its core. In the earliest days, Blessed Gerard and his followers reached out and cared for the pilgrims on the streets of Jerusalem from every faith tradition who needed shelter, medical treatment, and protection. This work was time consuming and expensive and led to the complex organization that we know today as the Sovereign Order of Malta, with works throughout the world.
Now as then, the charism of our members is to help others who are on pilgrimage, to meet their needs, and to support their desire to return to God and make a fresh start. Pilgrims seek physical and spiritual healing by visiting a holy place and hoping to return home, changed and carrying some of the holiness of that place with them. This is all well and good and speaks to our vocation to help the poor and sick, the vocation that unites us as members of the Order of Malta.
What we do not think about very often is OUR need to go on pilgrimage - to make our own journey seeking holiness, greater understanding of God's love for us, and renewal. We must become pilgrims for our own care and to be our best in caring for our beloved malades on their pilgrimage.
To think about this journey, we first need to understand what a pilgrim is. The word pilgrim comes from the Latin word peregrinus, which means outsider, stranger, foreigner. It might seem odd to think of yourself as a foreigner in your own country, but the theological significance is not based on your passport. On earth, all baptized disciples of Jesus Christ are to some extent strangers, because in baptism we become subjects of the Kingdom of God. Placing Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we reject idols and especially the love of power, pleasure, fortune, and fame. We are always outsiders to a degree, because the Kingdom of God is still in the making on earth. St. Augustine said it best: "Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in thee." In a word, we are pilgrims, and our Church is a pilgrim Church on earth.
By choosing to go on pilgrimage, we acknowledge our own inadequacy and our need to be in the community of pilgrims. God created us as good and designed us to seek the good, but too often we separate ourselves from God. We need healing.
Our Lady intercedes for us as only a true mother can. Our Lady of Good Help knows our pain of separation from God and calls us to return to her Son. Through Mary, we have the right to call Jesus our brother by adoption.
Jesus, fully human and fully divine, went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a young man and during His adult ministry. After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus went out into the desert to pray, which was the beginning of His ministry. He made a pilgrimage to Mount Tabor and revealed His glory to the apostles - the transfiguration that we celebrate today - and at the end He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane as a pilgrim. Jesus lived among us, but He was a stranger in a strange land who faced death in obedience to the Father.
To be a pilgrim is never easy, and it might seem intimidating or even frightening. We are asked to step out of our daily lives for something of external value, or rather an eternal person Jesus Christ. Jesus sets the example, and Mary can help us make the way smoother.
Pilgrims come in all shapes and varieties. One of the classics of medieval English literature is Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a series of humorous stories and moral lessons written in the 14th century and set during a fictional pilgrimage from the Tabard Inn south of the Thames to the Shrine of Thomas. A Becket, martyr for the faith, at Canterbury. The Tabard Inn still stands today. The pilgrims journey along the 56 mile road on horseback and share stories to pass the time. In those short stories we see amazing holiness and virtue as well as lust, stupidity, greed, and revenge. In reading this masterpiece we understand that every person has a different reason to be on pilgrimage, but the destination for all is the same: to be reconciled with God. And so let us do so, together.
We ask Mary, our mother and Our Lady of Good Help, and all the saints to pray for us on this spiritual pilgrimage by the members of the Order of Malta. We have been called on this journey as foreigners seeking our way back home.
In conclusion, let us pray the prayer of the Order...
Thank you, and may God bless all pilgrims and help us remain faithful to our calling as members of the Order of Malta.