The Seven Churches and The Pilgrimage of Life

It’s a frequent topic of conversation: DC’s transient population.  Young adults flood the city’s universities.  The ebb and flow of Congress brings with it aides, lobbyists, staff, family members and more.  And of course even if you’re not new to the city, there’s no guarantee that you’ll live in the same apartment for an extended period.  Rents change, buildings get bought for redevelopment, neighborhood dynamics shift… and then there’s that wonderful thing called marriage whereby your simple thousand-dollar-a-month efficiency just doesn’t cut it anymore.

At its most exalted, we call this culture of movement, “dynamic,” but when the rubber hits the road on moving day it’s just burdensome.

Iconic of all this… I was walking one day, and discovered a moving box rental company… I can’t say that I’d have much confidence in preowned cardboard boxes, but I digress…

In demographic terms, we refer to a constantly shifting population as transient (such a sad sounding word), but might we look at this especially DC phenomenon through eyes of faith?

In “Meditations of the Christ,” Father Romano Guardini (see previous post) describes Jesus as always being “in passage.”  It’s true.  The Lord was always moving about, slipping in and out of crowds, developing his ministry to its ultimate goal: the Passion Death and Resurrection.  Using the widest angle lens possible, we say that Christ was always on a pilgrimage back to the Father in heaven.

Our most ancient authors, especially St. Paul, speak beautifully about this sense of a life-pilgrimage to heaven:

“So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.  Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away.” (II Cor. 5:6-9)

Seen in this light, a culture of frequent moves doesn’t have to be quite so daunting… It’s just one more reminder of the reality that we’re invited to somewhere greater – heaven.

Yesterday, a group of intrepid Washingtonians took part in a beautiful exercise meant to remind all of us that every day of life in our city is part of a larger pilgrimage to the City of God… Our Young Adult Ministry, ( engaged in the Seven Church Walk.  Started in Rome by St. Philip Neri, the Seven Church Walk was a pilgrimage to the holiest basilicas of the Eternal City.  The faithful pray at each stop, but along the way they find Christ in each other through conversation, laughter, song, and food.  Some years ago this venerable tradition came to Washington.  Each year the faithful trek to 7 different historic parishes of our fair city… with the added bonus of tweeting, instagraming and facebooking the experience as they go!  Since I was occupied with holy week activities at my own parish I took great inspiration from the social media version of the pilgrimage!

As Catholics observe the start of Holy Week, we’re literally walking with Christ toward the Cross and Resurrection.  Never forget that whether it’s Holy Week or the Seven Church walk, all of this is a microcosm of how we can understand each and every day of our lives… moving, from apartment to apartment, job to job ever closer to God and our final goal, Heaven itself!