What is it a Pilgrimage?

by Jhon Alvarez

Sunday October 14th was our sixth day of pilgrimage in Rome, perhaps one of the most important due to the canonization ceremony. Many of us are getting to the peak of putting our bodies to the extreme demanding physical capacity. I feel exhausted, however, my spirit is getting stronger. Stronger in the sense that I’ve come to understanding better what a pilgrimage is. As humans we like to accommodate our lives to a level of comfort from which we don’t want to get out. In this level we start taking most of the fundamental gifts of life for granted.  The luxury of having all we need at hand; the comfort of our own beds and bathrooms, the security of being and feeling as local in our towns and knowing the language to communicate with others, the selfishness of having everything for us without having to share it with anyone else, the gift of having our relatives close to us every day without thinking that we might have to separate from them temporarily or perhaps forever. As time goes, we become ungrateful and start to behave like a spoiled kid who has everything in life, yet does not appreciate it. I’ve come to understand that becoming a PILGRIM is stepping out of that comfort zone into the unknown. Leaving everything to try to find ourselves within our souls, to feel vulnerable, to feel physically drained, exhausted, to feel ignorant without being able to communicate the most basic needs.

Two weeks before coming to Rome, I went backpacking in Colombia from Bogotá to Mocoa – Putumayo Colombia. I went searching into my soul, to find a part of me that I felt it was lost. I lived for a few days in the Amazon forest with Inga Indigenous communities. I disconnected from the “Artificial Matrix” we live connected in our cities. I lived, for a few days, stepping bare feet into jungle, taking my daily shower into the rivers of that region, living as one with Mother Nature. Sometimes, cleaning my body daily and burying it my dirt. It was a powerful experience. I now understand that it was a pilgrimage as well, a pilgrimage into to the guts of Mother Nature. Without knowing, that experience prepared me better to come to Rome. Here I can see the opposite of the wonders of Mother Nature. I’ve come to see the creation of human beings, the, sometimes, excesses of the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church. The contrast between humility and excess. I wonder what Oscar Romero would think of all this process where money, power and politics play a big role, leaving out the unprivileged?

Please, do not get me wrong. I believe the canonization of Monsignor Oscar Romero it is of paramount important for the simple people of El Salvador, Latin America and all the organizations like Romero House, which walk the talk with the values and beliefs that he left us through his homilies. It is important in the sense that there is hope that this canonization reach out simple Salvadorians who are still being neglected and abused by the corruption of their government.  And for the many organizations like Romero House, that day by day try to fight for social justice, helping refugees and the unprivileged to carry their burden. Now there is a more powerful reason to keep helping each other, and to strive by the values that Saint Oscar Romero taught us through his work, homilies and life.

This pilgrimage has help me to appreciate the simple, yet great gifts that I have in life. It has help me to step out of my comfort zone, to look within myself, to look myself into a mirror that shows me my gifts and shortcomings, even if I do not like them. Along this process, I have grown in spirit.

Another important lesson, today we received sad news about our great friend Lauretta Santarossa. Her father died during the ceremony of canonization. This was perhaps the most drastic reminder that life is fragile and our relatives, or perhaps we, can leave this world suddenly. With no previous notice, not being able to say goodbye to those whom we love. With no possibility to finish our plans or leave in order our lives, without unfinished business. Without the possibility to say to our kids, parents or spouses “I love you”. For this, I just cried. I thought about my mother, my kids, my wife, and how sometimes we waste time arguing and being rude about trivial stuff. I will try to say “I Love you” to my love ones every day, and to people I know, just in case I will not see them or they will not see me anymore for some reason. May our friend Lauretta goes through this process of grieving accompanied by relatives and friends, here, there is friend accompanying you in spirit. “Buen Viento y Buena Mar Lauretta, I LOVE YOU.


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