Our first pilgrimage to the holy Land in nearly two years is departing in just over a week. They have received their pilgrim packets with their luggage tags and booklet. Their e-tickets are in their inboxes, and their final preparation meeting was earlier this week. We – and their group leaders – have done our best to prepare everyone for their upcoming journey.
But what about when things don’t happen as planned? Inevitably, something unusual will come up on any trip, but on a pilgrimage, it can take on an entirely new meaning, when united with the Lord or taken as almost expected.
So, how do you prepare for the unexpected? It seems like this is almost impossible in theory. However, I believe a lot of it comes from the attitude you cultivate before your trip. Will you get angry if things don’t turn out the way you want, or will you be able to roll with the punches and take what comes with grace and maybe even joy?
I once took shelter in a grungy alcove next to a bus station in Spain to wait out a rainstorm. It had been a bleak slog for a couple of miles as I had failed to connect with a fellow pilgrim by the bridge where we were supposed to meet (we were each at different ones, it turned out). I was not looking forward to getting wet, which the looming gray clouds threatened with every passing step.
Luckily, I was not alone, as I had run into two others shortly after leaving the main part of the city. We were about to cross the street to see if there was a place to stay dry when we heard a jolly “Buen Camino” and turned to find the one I had missed earlier that day. She joined our little group and the four of us ducked into our makeshift shelter just in time to escape the worst of the downpour.
What seemed at first to be an unfortunate turn of events – where I could have been tempted to complain of the dreariness of the weather and not finding my expected companion on time – turned out to be one of my favorite Camino memories. The four of us immediately tried to make the best of the situation, pulling out all our provisions of bread, cheese, olives, chorizo, etc. for a spontaneous picnic lunch. As we shared our food and our stories, the alcove filled with laughter and once we were finished eating, the heaviest rain had passed, leaving just a light mist to accompany the rest of our day. It was nothing I could have planned, but just what my soul needed.
As our latest group of pilgrims draws closer to its departure to the Holy Land, our prayer is that each pilgrim will be prepared physically and spiritually, and also that they will be open to all the unexpected joys and graces our Lord is waiting to shower upon them.