It has been over a month since I returned from my first pilgrimage. Though I’m back into the hectic pace at work and gearing up for another Carnaval season, I like to reflect on my experience often. Our trip was like none I have ever experienced.
I knew I was going to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for some time. However, I kept news of it under wraps because I had personal and spiritual reasons for making the trip. As I have chronicled in recent years, I have had to deal with certain situations and individuals who brought toxic negativity into my life.While the context was professional, it greatly affected me personally. Dealing with those people, and one person in particular, made me confront destructive negative behavior daily. It challenged me mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Fear and anxiety can paralyze. I often felt physically unable to speak or to defend myself in the face of this type of energy. I got through these years of challenge through faith, love, commitment to putting my students first. During this time, I made a commitment to show my gratitude by making a pilgrimage. I had the opportunity to spend this past Christmas in Israel and the West Bank.
The places we visited were familiar to me through my faith life. I have sung about them in the mornings during the Liturgy of the Hours. I have read about them as a lector and taught about them as a catechist. To have them made real and tangible still leaves me speechless. There were so many moments during the trip when I became tearful and quietly cried. I thought tears would come in certain moments but they did not. Tears came when they came.
It was hard to come home. Being on pilgrimage helped make me more mindful. I realized how compartmentalized, hectic and scheduled my life is. In so many ways, my life here at home is limited day to day. While on pilgrimage, I had many opportunities to relish every sight, sound, and taste. I was reminded that every experience is a true gift. It was liberating, reassuring, empowering, and inspiring.
My pilgrimage was magical, surreal, and beautiful. I saw the Mediterranean sea, walked by the Jordan River, sailed on the sea of Galilee, and saw all of Jerusalem from Mount Zion. It put things into perspective to set aside time to get back in touch with what is valuable. It gave me strength. It changed me. It won’t be a trip I will soon forget. I can always call it to mind whenever needed. For that I am grateful.