We all know the feeling of being unplugged, and especially when people know we’re in a downtime reserved for repose and restoration. On a micro-scale, locking oneself in the bathroom to take a hot shower can be such a time. Both mind and body can close a door to the outside world. Many of us have experienced, I think, the flow of truly inspired ideas from this simple act of isolation. Or an a larger scale, we break from our daily routines to venture on a vacation away-from-home — jetting off to a tropical island in wintertime, or skiing in the summertime. We are people that take delight in jumping into opposites. There is something in our nature that finds rejuvenation in paradoxes. Perhaps that explains why we love the bittersweet love songs the best or delight in a childish gulp of peanut butter and jam.
Odd perhaps to think about, but Lent has a lot in common with vacations.
For 40 days we can break our routines. In fact we’re expected to do so. We’re expected to close an inner door and turn on the shower. We have permission to go on a restorative trip that realigns our being with the soothing balm of heaven’s warm trade winds and put the human winter of worry, concupiscence, and mistrust behind us. We can jump into Daddy’s arms and play in the sand. But it does require some effort.
Although I’ve never had the opportunity there is one getaway that has always drawn me in a most powerful way; and that is the thousand year old Camino of St. James, the pilgrim way across Europe ending in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Many of my family and friends have done it and come back renewed. Oh yes there is walking, and walking, and more walking — there is that kind of suffering and physical denial and yet, the journey was completely vacation-aly restorative for them.
With my pilgrim longing came a realization, something akin to the one I had in my teen years (that I don’t need to go far away to be a missionary, the very place I live is a mission land). I can take my vacation pilgrimage this Lent by breaking away from my routine, getting up earlier, or later, having a silent walk sprinkled with prayer, walking barefoot in the thawing spring muck and planting myself like a seed in the dirty unexpected, ready to shoot towards a new horizon of faith and trust in God, the Father of the unexpected. It is what Lent is designed for after all.
Lent is a great time for those of you still discerning your calling in life to enter into its walking mystery and allow this unique “vacation” to help you understand your vocation — a vocation vacation. Where better to think than here in the liturgical season of denial when you can close doors to the noise outside.
On his own pilgrimage to Spain, Pope John Paul II had this to say,
“Santiago de Compostela is a place that has рlауеd a very important role in the history of Christianity;and so, its spiritual message is in itself very eloquent. Throughout the centuries the рlасе has been a ‘point of attraction and convergence for Europe and for the whole of Christendom.’
In the world today there is a revival of the practice of going on pilgrimage, especially among the youth. Today, you are among those more inclined to experience a pilgrimage as a ‘way’ to interior renewal, to a deepening of faith, a strengthening of the sense of communion and solidarity with your brothers and sisters and as a help in discovering your personal vocation.”
If you’re a young man between the age of 18 and 30 and would like to “vacation” with us to discern your vocation, you can, for up to two week free of charge. And we will put you to work, in a good way. After all that is what true pilgrimage is all about.
Lent truly is a unique time. Don’t let it walk past. Make it your getaway vacation.