Is it a hike or a pilgrimage?

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

On Saturday, as I packed my daypack and ran down the list of essentials for my hike, I realized the last two items on my list were not merely items . . .

  • Trail Map √
  • Hiking boots √
  • Hiking pole √
  • Snacks √
  • Water √
  • Sisters √
  • Discerners √

Yes, Sisters and Discerners!

One of our favorite things to do is to go for hikes.  Sometimes they are leisurely strolls and other times they are moderate to strenuous hikes.  Whatever the level of intensity, they always include bringing along one or two of our Sisters in community and often include friends, family, and discerning women.  It is the perfect way to spend time outdoors, enjoying nature, getting to know people, and sharing more of our life as Dominican Sisters.  Some of our favorite places to hike are Blendon Woods Park (OH), Lilinonah Trail (CT), Sleeping Giant State Park (CT), Cuyahoga Falls State Park (OH), Mohican State Park (OH), among others.

Discerning women often accompany us on our hikes and during of our journey, we talk about what is going on in life, prayer, discernment, or just share the experience of the hike.  Very often, we spend time just walking, reveling in the beauty of nature, and watching for glimpses of God on the way.  As I reflected on these hikes with our discerners and in planning my upcoming trip to walk part of the Camino de Santiago, I realized that I see all of these hikes and walks as pilgrimages.  A pilgrimage is different from a walk or a hike in the woods; it is a journey that involves not only an external trip from one place to another, but more importantly, it is an interior spiritual journey.  Ancient pilgrims walked to the Holy Land, along the Camino Way to Compostela in Spain or to other holy sites for many reasons, but most especially, because of their quest to grow spiritually.

In discernment, one is seeking to grow spiritually and to gain clarity as to God’s call for one’s life.  Just as with a pilgrimage, one must pack a sack with supplies, get a map, plan your route, and begin and end in prayer.  Similarly, women who are discerning a call to religious life need to have on hand such supplies as a Bible, rosary, and journal.  The map or plan for your route may come from meeting with a spiritual director or a vocation minister, who can help you learn more about religious life and accompany you on retreats and or visits to our convents and ministries.  Prayer always anchors discernment and pilgrimages.  As we begin our hikes with prayer, we are reminded of the traditional pilgrim prayer of the Camino de Santiago –

“O God, who brought your servant Abraham out of the land of the Chaldean’s, protecting him in his wanderings, who guided the Hebrew people across the desert, we ask that you watch over us, your servants, as we walk in the love of your name to Santiago de Compostela.
Be for us our companion on the walk,
Our guide at the crossroads,
Our breath in our weariness,
Our protection in danger,
Our albergue on the Camino,
Our shade in the heat,
Our light in the darkness,
Our consolation in our discouragements,
And our strength in our intentions.
So that with your guidance we may arrive safe and sound at the end of the Road and enriched with grace and virtue we return safely to our homes filled with joy.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,  Amen.
Apostle Santiago, pray for us.
Santa Maria, pray for us.

So, as you set out on your journey today, what are you taking in your pack?  What is your map or plan?  What is your prayer?

If you are discerning your vocation, give us a call, attend one of our upcoming programs such as our Mission for Peace beginning on June 13 or let us know when you would like to lace up the hiking boots or trail sneakers and hit the trail.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from some recent hikes.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

2 responses to “Is it a hike or a pilgrimage?

  1. Thank you for this beautiful reflection and photos. Yes , as Brigid says, good to see “young ones” enjoying what was one of my favorite things to do, be out enjoying God’s creation. Still do but in very small scale!!

    BLESSINGS!, Esther

  2. What comes to my mind when I see the sisters and the discerners is the song “Happy Trails”. The song is an oldie but goodie. Yet it is good to see smiling faces enjoying their hike. Something I used to loved to do when I lived in Albuquerque, NM at our former Dominican Retreat House.
    Blessings and wisdom as you hike the “Happy Trails” together. Love,
    Sr. Brigid

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