Mary Jo Anderson reflects on Christmas a time of spiritual pilgrimage, usually an interior journey of faith and trust in God’s providence that mirrors the real journey of the Holy Family and the shepherds and the Wise Men to Bethlehem.
Pilgrimages are an ancient form of devotion to some manifestation of God’s providence. Among the more famous pilgrimage sites for Catholics are Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes, Fatima. Each represents a unique place and moment in history when God revealed His work to those with the faith to “see.” This seeing with the eyes of faith is part of the pilgrimage experience — that is, one makes a physical journey in hopes of touching and experiencing the temporal place where heaven entered our world. But it is never the physical contact alone that true pilgrims seek. Rather, that physical reality reflects what the heart already knows: Only those who believe will see heaven at work.
She closes with an illustration of the idea using the miraculous staircase at Loretto chapel in New Mexico. According to legend, the sisters who’d commissioned the chapel needed a staircase to the choir loft but could find no one who could do the job without wrecking the chapel or building it on the exterior. Thus the sisters prayed a novena to St. Joseph after which a stranger arrived, offered to build it, created an amazing architectural wonder, and disappeared. While many see a miracle, others seek to debunk such legends. But Mary Jo insists that such arguments miss the point because what matters is that the sisters’ prayers and trust in God were indeed answered and rewarded.
For pilgrims willing to look for God, His providence is clearly seen in this chapel, and at other revered sites. One might as well say that Joseph and Mary experienced nothing unusual when the Magi arrived in Bethlehem with coffers of valuables that provided the means for the Holy Family to escape to Egypt in advance of Herod’s murderous rage.
p style="font-style: italic;font-size: 8px;">Photo credit: karol m at Wikimedia Commons. Used under a Creative Commons license.
- lorettostaircase.jpg: karol m from arizona, USA (Flickr)/Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0