Many years ago while working in Km 11 Comas, one of the “pueblo jovenes” of Lima, we had a visit from a French traveler. He was a member of a religious group known as “the fraternity of Charles de Foucauld” or the “Little Brothers”. I don’t even remember his name now – perhaps it was Henri, but I do remember that he was French and he walked around Latin America. He had taken the normal vows of religious – but was given special permission to take a fourth vow – a vow of “pilgrimage”. He had decided to walk until he could no longer walk – and that was simply his message. Life is a pilgrimage – and so this educated and cultured man carried only a small backpack and walked about Latin America. He did not refuse hospitality and when not offered a bed he would sleep by the side of the road, or in any shelter that was found nearby at night. He came to the parish house one day and asked if he could stay for a few days. He was grateful for a warm place to stay and a few meals, the chance to shower and to wash his clothes, but he only stayed a few days and then continued his journey.
This would be just a chance encounter, except that I met him on two other occasions. I was once taking a course in Bolivia (in Cochabamba) and he again knocked on the door of the place where I was staying. It was a convent of Bolivian nuns which was being used for a month long conference for missionaries from around Latin America. A few months later I was visiting a friend in Buenos Aires, Argentina – another Oblate parish house – and Henri again walked into the church late one afternoon. I recognized him immediately and directed him to the house. He stayed only one day.
I have often wondered how long he kept it up. Sure he was happy to visit a parish house or convent, but his message was as real to professional religious as to the seekers of the spiritual and those who worked just to get by each day.
Life as I am beginning to understand it is a conscious span of somewhat irregular periods given to each of us. We do not choose the beginning and few of us choose the end. We cross this timeline of life with different theories about what it is all about. What is certain is that it does end – at least in the dimension with which we are familiar. The idea of some extension into eternity gives comfort to some, and serves as consolation for those who find this life or make this life a “veil of tears”.
I have traveled more than 60 years now – more than the average for our species on this planet. There is much to reflect on dealing with “the road traveled” in these years – sometimes the road “less traveled” and more often the road traveled by so many millions of others. There are regrets for sure – and amazement at times when I think of where I have been and why I was there. There are precious moments – exquisitely intimate moments but ultimately those which tie me to the great human journey.
So this blog will be my expression of coming to terms with my pilgrimage – making sense of some of the things of the past, and wonder about things which I have yet to learn. The journey continues.