Updated: Jan 4, 2019
"Tourists pass through places, but pilgrims let places pass through them, allowing their hearts to be changed." - Rev. Peter Miano
At the end of this month, I embark upon a trip of a lifetime, a true pilgrimage in every sense of the word, and the underlying emotion I feel is trepidation. I’m heading to France with my husband and a band of seekers from my church, a small Episcopal congregation on Orcas Island in Washington State to visit the sites of Mary Magdalene.
Our pastor Rev. Berto is leading our group and is a wonderful man, originally versed in the Catholic tradition as a former priest and also an accomplished photographer. The lens of our journey will be both as a faith pilgrimage and a field experience in contemplative photography. With so much going for it, why does this trip make me cringe?
To look for answers, I take out a paper copy of my compass. My compass (right) is the model I’ve used for years in my client one-on-one session work and for my own interpersonal development. Narrative, Compassion, Wisdom, Boundaries...Maybe I’m afraid of the massive shifts that I feel sure are about to happen once I visit some of the sites. Maybe I’m nervous about how the ensuing, open reflections among my new church friends will grind against the comments of my thoroughly agnostic husband.
We called a truce in our faith disparities in the witness of our marital therapist a few years ago. A month later, convinced that it was a deal breaker, I asked for a divorce in front of the same therapist. We survived the crisis, celebrating our 29th anniversary today. Talking about religion? That was left in the office. Not long after our therapy, I moved to Orcas Island, a place as far Northwest as it gets off of Washington State to develop my business and deepen my faith journey. Mike, my husband, shifted careers moving to Southern California. Separate homes brought us closer than any therapy could have.
Each morning, I drift into a 20 minute guided meditation with Oprah and Deepak Chopra. The current meditation is a series entitled "Become What You Believe." In my mind's eye, I meet in a circle with various guides, most of whom are considered Ascended Masters, who help me take the best next steps.
Today, JC (I’m not comfortable calling Jesus Jesus or Christ) talks to me about the trip-and my anniversary: "You will meet a male waiter at a cafe who will tell you about a Magdalene site that is an actual place where she was. It’s important that you do this. You will actually be able to feel her presence there."
This is a pretty specific instruction. Most of the information that is given to me is in the form of metaphors. For example, today JC recommended that Mike look upon his new work as a sculptor might, carving a figure out of a great block of stone. Some days, he will need to “lop off” great chunks to make progress, but most days it will entail the small continuous chiseling of various edges.
Wear the red rain jacket, chat with male waiters and await instructions. Got it. I often do these mental check lists before leaving meditations otherwise it’s like a dream that is lost once I wake up to ordinary reality.
“There is a certain degree of healing that only this trip can provide,” JC relates. Hindus go to Varanasi, Buddhists go to Tibet, Jews to Jerusalem, Muslims head to Mecca and Christians go to the Santiago. Apparently privileged white women who are looking for the signs of Mary Magdalene take a Viking River cruise down the Rhône River.
All kidding aside, I am looking for the signs. And the healing. And the inspiration.
So dear reader, I ask that you join me on this trip. It’s been a year of great highs and crushing lows that I am sure to lay at the foot of these pages. I hope to share these sites-and these insights-with the great sensitivity and respect that they deserve.
Who was Mary Magdalene? What is a pilgrimage? Am I ready for this?