Posts Tagged ‘Pilgrimage’

On Pilgrimage, Jesuit Novice Learns to Place Trust in God

According to the Jesuit Constitutions, all Jesuit novices are required to complete a month-long pilgrimage “without money… begging from door to door … to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging,” a lesson in complete trust in God. Jesuit Julio Minsal-Ruiz’s pilgrimage began when he and two other novices were dropped off in the town of Dajabon on the Haitian border and told to find their own way to Río Limpio in the Dominican Republic.

With no money or cell phones, only a few items of clothing, a water bottle, a prayer book and a letter of introduction from the novitiate, they were directed to put everything they had in the hands of God and surrender themselves to the experience. “That’s what pilgrimage is,” Ruiz said. “An experience of bare, almost nakedness of humanity without technology or big-city commercialism.”

The novices moved from village to village, relying on the kindness of strangers. “Many times the poorest people in the poorest towns were often the people who were the most generous,” Ruiz said. “They would move mountains to make things appear, like putting food on the table.”

In exchange, Ruiz approached each community with an offer to work. “Our experience was to work alongside them and experience the work of the rural farmer,” he said. “It was very humbling.”

On the last leg of the journey to Río Limpio, Ruiz and his fellow Jesuits were following a path through a forest in western Dominican Republic. When the path ended abruptly at the top of a mountain, the novices found themselves in the forest during a thunderstorm, at a loss for what to do.

Ruiz’s mind whirled with thoughts of hopelessness, even death, and the very real possibility that they would never be found. “When the path ended, we really kind of lost everything. We had no hope of anyone finding us. It was a very critical life-or-death situation.”

They decided to follow the river and eventually found a farmer who pointed out the way to their destination. The novices arrived three hours later, greeted with warm food, dry beds and the company of their Jesuit colleagues.

Ruiz realized that even though he had despaired, he’d been determined to complete the pilgrimage and had found hope in the process. “Even the path we first thought we had was taken from us. The clothes were lost, the food was gone, but somehow God was there leading us. All these things we thought were ours, but actually they’re things He has given to us. Everything we have is a gift, and that’s the main objective.”

Read the full story of Ruiz’s pilgrimage experience at Xavier Magazine.

Jesuit Novice Experienced Homelessness through Pilgrimage

Jesuit Jeff DorrThe Jesuit Constitutions instruct all Jesuit novices to do a month-long pilgrimage “without money… begging from door to door… to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging.”

This tradition is how Wisconsin Province Jesuit Jeff Dorr, a scholastic in First Studies, found himself with $35, a one-way bus ticket and an order to be home for dinner at 4:00 p.m., exactly 30 days later.

Dorr took the bus from Detroit to Atlanta. From there he planned to walk 20 miles to a Trappist monastery to spend his pilgrimage in prayerful solitude.

But within minutes, his plan changed. The first person he stopped to ask for directions had just gotten out of prison. They talked for a few minutes, and Dorr was so moved that he gave the man $10 for train fare. Next, he met a homeless man, and Dorr gave him the remainder of his money so he could eat.

“I realized that I felt drawn to a new focus,” Dorr said. “I knew what homeless people looked like and sounded like, but I never knew experientially what it meant to be homeless. I thought maybe that’s where this should go. Something of that experience of being on the street and being without was what I was meant to be doing.”

Dorr spent 18 nights at a homeless shelter, where he met dozens of people who shared their stories with him.

“One thing I gained from the shelter was a whole new appreciation for who ends up there,” said Dorr. He found that while many shelter residents have addiction or mental health issues, others are people who had houses and jobs and then something went wrong, like a divorce.

“The point of the pilgrimage is to spend the month letting go of our typical securities of home, money, community, and in doing that, come to trust more fully in God,” he said. “I realized how blessed I am, and that no matter what I do, I can’t experience life on the streets the way these guys do. It changed the outlook I had of what I was striving for and what God was calling me to. His message to me was to be with them, but you can’t be them.”

Read more of Dorr’s pilgrimage experience at Xavier Magazine.