I’ve just returned from leading a pilgrimage to the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.
The theme chosen for the Congress was taken from Lumen Gentium, one of the documents of Vatican II: “Communion with Christ and with one another.” With this in mind, I deliberately designed the pilgrimage to express both. We travelled by coach and ferry, not aeroplane – more time to build communion with one another, and an act of ecological solidarity with the developing world. We began and ended with pauses for prayer in the chapel of Llantarnam Abbey – expressions of our communion with Christ. We celebrated Mass together at the end of the long outward journey and with Archbishop George before commencing our return journey.
Several times during the trip, I was asked if I was enjoying the experience. That’s the question I look forward to least. As organiser, it’s my job to worry about details so other pilgrims don’t have to, and sometimes to miss workshops and seminars while sorting out details. It’s harder to relax into the big set-piece liturgies with one’s mind on the details of what happens next. For me, this pilgrimage was not a nourishing spiritual experince – but then, I didn’t expect it to be. I didn’t set ambitions to go to any particular talk or prayer session because I knew I would be a hostage to logistics. So if I ever gave an answer which implied that I was underwhelmed by the Congress, that would say nothing about the Congress itself, but everything about where my focus was. Once the group had all returned home safely and all loose ends were tied up – then I could relax and rest in the comfort of a task well done.
At the end of our pilgrimage, we gathered for a final prayer in the chapel of Llantarnam Abbey before dispersing, and I share with you my parting words to the pilgrims:
When we celebrate Eucharist, we are celebrating a sacrifice freely made by one so that many may receive blessings. On this pilgrimage, it has been my privilege to be the one making sacrifices, so that you may all enjoy the Congress experience. But a day will come when each one of you will be responsible for the blessing of others. When that day comes, do what I did: choose to make the sacrifices, do so cheerfully, and for the good of those in your care. In that way you will live out the great exhortation which was placed above the main altar of the Statio Orbis, “Become what you receive” – and you too will be Eucharist for others.