Spiritual Guidance for Pilgrims
Here is a letter that was sent to Father Julio Gonzalez, the pastor of Santuario de Chimayo and Holy Family Parish, along with his reply.
Dear Rev. Gonzalez:
My niece lives in Las Cruces and she is suffering from advanced cervical cancer. I remember from long years past that many of the faithful would make pilgrimages to El Santuario de Chimayo to pray for miracles. I would like to perform such a pilgrimage. I am asking your guidance in this, for a couple of reasons; I am not Catholic and do not know the proper procedure. I hope to be in New Mexico the week after Easter. I will contact her parents, as I am sure they will wish to join me. I’m not sure my niece can make the journey herself. I want to walk the entire way from Santa Fe to Chimayo, to show the Lord that I am sincere in my plea. Please tell me what I need to know about such an undertaking. Thank you and God Bless you.
Here is the reply from Father Gonzalez:
Thank you for your e-mail and for sharing your love for your niece with us. Let me include her in my prayers at the foot of the Christ of Esquipulas, thus, we pray together.
I truly believe that God has a plan for all of us while we journey through this life, that we are not in this world without a specific reason. I don't know God’s plan for your niece, but we should tell the Lord that if He has a plan for her, she and her family are listening and don’t reject the work.
All of us are on a pilgrimage. We have no everlasting dwelling home here. We are on a pilgrimage and on a journey of faith. To be a pilgrim means that we let God guide our footsteps; that the pilgrimage of his Son from Nazareth to Jerusalem inspires our own pilgrimage. His teachings enlighten our lives, his suffering gives us courage, his faith gives us hope, his love brings us to life.
For us "time" (days, months, years) means a lot, but for God "time" counts in a different way and means something else: "One thousand years are like a second, and a second is like thousand years" (Book of Psalms). This is a huge mystery for us, but pilgrims are much closer to this mystery because they are "homeless" in this world; thus, their experience of loss, life and death, show a new meaning. This is why Saint Francis called death "sister Death".
My advice is this:
FIRST: Start each day of your pilgrimage with a prayer. In your prayer call God, Father. He is waiting for you. Then, acknowledge your weaknesses and flaws. Entrust your deeper longings to Him. Entrust your niece to Him. Ask the Lord to reveal His will to you during this pilgrimage. If you cannot understand Him, how can you be faithful to Him? But, remember, you will only understand God with your heart and this heart must be emptied before God sends His grace upon you. The pilgrimage will help you to empty your heart of anything that is not of God.
SECOND: During the pilgrimage, offer God your tiredness, hunger, suffering, pain. In the same way that Jesus, His Son, suffered for us, tell God that the purpose of your sacrifice is your niece’s healing. You should fast from anything that is not water and bread (eat and drink only bread and water: this pilgrimage between Santa Fe and Chimayo only lasts one day). Fasting pleases God because you become sharper, stronger, unafraid... The purpose of fasting is not to weaken your body, but to strengthen your will and, thus, your body.
THIRD: But you don’t want to tempt your God. Don’t act like Satan when Jesus went to the desert: if you are the Son of God then do this, do that... Your prayer should be Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane: "Not my will, but Yours..."
I hope this will help you.
God bless you,
Rev. Julio Gonzalez, SF.