Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Sharing the journey

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The Second Vatican Council recovered the ancient understanding of the church as a pilgrim people. It is a notion that has deep roots in our tradition, particularly when we consider that before the term “Christianity” was coined, the disciples of Jesus spoke of themselves as belonging to “the Way.”

Pope Francis is inviting us to deepen our appreciation of what it means to be a pilgrim people in calling us to be a synodal church. A synodal church is one in which everyone lives in communion and is responsible for building bonds of compassion within our church and society.

Being a synodal church means there is a sense of belonging and solidarity, to the point that we live as brothers and sisters and as friends, sharing our blessings, our time, talent and treasure. It also means forming a partnership among all the members to participate in the mission of the church.

There is the happy coincidence that as we prepare for the synod on synodality this October, Catholics in our area are making pilgrimages to two sites.

First, many local young people traveled to Lisbon, Portugal, the first week of August for the 17th World Youth Day.

This international gathering of Catholic young people (typically ages 16-30) from around the world is held every two to three years in varying host countries. It began with Pope St. John Paul II in 1984.

Recently, I was pleased to pray with some members of our group who traveled to Lisbon and offer a blessing as they went on their way. They joined the hundreds of thousands who made the pilgrimage to Lisbon. To give focus to their pilgrimage, the Holy Father chose the passage from Luke’s Gospel recounting Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth: “Mary got up and went in haste.”

Many in our Polish community will also be on pilgrimage Aug. 12 and 13 to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Merriville, Indiana, which is overseen by the Salvatorian Fathers.

This 30-mile walk is a great witness to the importance of unity as people journey together to promote peace in the world and unity among people of all races, languages, cultures and religions.

Pilgrimages are about more than traveling from one place to another. They are about leaving what is familiar, helping one another along the way, dedicating time for reflection, making the pilgrimage a journey inward.

But they also help us appreciate what it means to be church. They remind us that our Christian lives are a journey, one in which we take life step by step, accompany one another with patience, give direction to those who are lost and share our blessings so that no one is left behind or left out.

We wish safe travels to all of those making a pilgrimage this summer, our young people, our Polish friends. We also thank them for reminding us that we are all pilgrims, invited to take the journey of life, step by step.


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