Editorial by Erica Pegorer, Executive Director
Andrea and I, together with Linda Kiernan and Anne Young are in the final stages of preparing the second pilgrimage to Ireland where we will visit ancient religious sites as well as walk in the footsteps of Nano Nagle and Daniel Delany. We will tap into the ancient Celtic spiritualty of St Brigid and St Patrick and will spend time in prayer, refection and contemplation. It is a meeting that I look forward to, not just because in four short months we and twenty others will be embarking on this pilgrimage, but also because, I find it energizing as we discuss places to visit and activities that will invite pilgrims into tranquil mindsets so often lacking in our busy lives. We hope that this experience will transform change and touch peoples’ hearts and that it will awaken or re-energise as the case may be, peoples’ deep spirituality and connection to God.
When I taught medieval history to year 8 students all those years ago, we discovered that in those times, a person could be paid to walk to a designated holy place carrying the sins of another, and on arrival, those sins would be absolved. So you could pay someone to walk off your sins! This was certainly rich food for vivid imaginations but years later when I was about to participate on my first pilgrimage, a friend approached me with a similar request. Not to carry her sins but to carry her prayers to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. This has been a site for prayer and pilgrimage for centuries and even today, if one cannot travel to Jerusalem then prayers are placed in the wall on their behalf.
Both the notion of walking off the sins of another and carrying the prayers for another to a holy site made me think of communal responsibility for humanity and about walking in the shoes of another. The Kildare Ministries value of Compassion – walking with and having empathy for all calls us to walk in the shoes of another. In his address in Africa in in 2014, Pope Francis listed ‘uncommon’ attitudes that would make the church attractive: ‘generosity, detachment, sacrifice and self-forgetfulness’, so that we might care for each other which is a more positive spin on it I think.
In this modern world we call such times of contemplation and tranquillity mindfulness. There are now over a thousand Apps on the market to help us manage our tranquillity. You might be interested to know, that last year, 22% of US employers commissioned a mindfulness course for their staff and this year the mindfulness ‘industry’ will, according to some estimates, break $1.5 billion in value. And yet it seems that people crave for self-care, a peaceful mind and a deep connection and notions like ‘sin’ and ‘sacrifice’ and ‘self-forgetfulness’ are outdated and irrelevant to us. We just need to give a cursory glance at our current news headlines to come to the conclusion that we have worked to create a society where the needs and wants of the individual have superseded the common good for society. When did we lose sight of the fact, that the two are not mutually exclusive? A community that flourishes care, protects and advocates for the most vulnerable and voiceless, means that the needs of the individual become less important.
As we approach the second pilgrimage the notion of carrying sins for others, deepens that possibility of connection by the simplest act of setting down one foot after the other. And my hope is that when we return we will have renewed our desire to make our world a better place for our having been in it.
Executive Officer for Kildare Ministries