Encounter with pilgrims

Last week, on the evening of the feast of the Assumption, I had a surprise visit from a group of 22 Spanish pilgrims making their way on foot from Krakow, Poland to Mariazell, Austria, including one married couple going with three of their older children. The pilgrimage was led by a priest who founded a home for homeless persons in Madrid. Many of the participants are volunteers for the home, some others got to know the priest in another way. They stayed in the parish hall overnight, and had supper and breakfast here.

One special feature of this pilgrimage was their reliance on divine providence and the generosity of benefactors on the way; though they had planned in advance approximately how far they would go each day, and thus the town or towns where they would be towards the evening, they did not plan in advance for food or shelter, and would not buy food along the way, but begged for it when they came. (In the case of food, one told me, when no one gave them something, they would practice dumpster diving at supermarkets, which I guess is a modern-day equivalent of gleaning the leftovers from farmer's fields.)

This dependence upon providence and the generosity of those they meet reflects in some way the complementarity of the contemplative and active life in the body of Christ. The pilgrims, by voluntarily choosing not to provide for themselves, show, on the one hand, that we should seek above all the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and to those who do so, all other things will be given as God wills, and on the other hand, providing spiritual goods to the community (making visible the priority of God before all else, as well as their prayer for the communities through which they pass and for their benefactors), fittingly receive material goods from them.

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