Thank you so much for joining us as we walked in the footsteps of some amazing Italian female saints on our journey into a deeper relationship with the Lord.
10 days ago, we set out to enter more fully into the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy by embarking on a pilgrimage. As we look back upon our time together, it is truly evident that the Lord greatly blessed our efforts and showered us abundantly with His extraordinary mercy—more than we could have ever imagined possible.
A pilgrimage, by definition, is an expedition, a mission, a journey. It is a voyage one undertakes in an effort to grow spiritually. There is a reason those descriptive words don't imply vacation, leisurely time away or holiday, because, simply put, a pilgrimage is work. A pilgrimage involves struggle, sacrifice, patience and perseverance. But when that struggle, sacrifice, patience and perseverance is drenched in prayer and unity, graces flow and spiritual growth abounds. That's what happened for all of us who were part of the WINE & Shrine Women's Pilgrimage to Italy—we encountered many opportunities to be merciful and to trust completely in the Lord—and each time we said "yes", each time we gave our fiat (Be it done unto me), we were showered with His amazing grace!
On our pilgrimage, 28 women from 10 states, 2 countries and all walks of life, came together to grow closer to God. In doing so, we battled the elements, had our patience tested, our spirit strained and our tenacity tried. We fought through long exhausting days and short sleepless nights. We struggled with physical aches and pains and experienced emotional turmoil, each of us carrying our own cross. But the beauty of it all is that we did it not as 28 individuals, but as one. Through your selfless giving, we became the body of Christ in action.
I commend you all for shining with the gifts St. John Paul the Great described when he spoke of our Feminine Genius. From the beginning, you were all very open to receiving one another. It didn't matter where anyone was on her spiritual journey, each of you opened your arms to welcome another. Within just moments after meeting, you embraced the stories of one another receiving them with compassion.
Your sensitivity was noticeable, as a corner of an umbrella was offered in Assisi, an essential oil provided to ease an upset stomach on the bus, or a Kleenex handed to wipe away the tears that accompanied the heartfelt conversations.
The beauty of your generosity at the "sunset soiree" was as stunning as the sunset itself as each of you brought food to share, and (almost as if it was a well choreographed dance) each of you did your part in preparing, serving and cleaning up an impromptu meal. To top it off, prayer was offered in song and Scripture was shared in story. That evening as the sun set over a rooftop in Umbria, women entered into the new evangelization much like the apostles did 2,000 years ago: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).
Thank you all for walking with us on this journey. I'm not sure words, or even all the pictures, could ever truly capture just how transformed we each were by the incredible graces that were showered upon us. For the next few weeks, as we go back to our daily lives, and as we go forward on this journey back to the heart of the Father, may we each carry with us those wonderful frozen moments from our pilgrimage together, moments that allowed us to struggle, sacrifice, be patient and persevere with joy!