Posts Tagged ‘pilgrimage’


“I felt in need of a great pilgrimage
so I sat still for three

and God came
to me. “

How do I invite Spirit? Are there new ways I’d like to try?

I would like to live in and be aware of my innate holiness,
to rest in this space
of love and wholeness

to feel  gratitude for all I’ve been given
and to deepen my capacity
to hold love and faith.


I need to say to Fear, Limitation and Doubt


When I recognize them,  I will surround them with my open, loving heart. I will allow them the space to be. And when they wish to leave, “these enemies of ego” as author Joyce Rupp calls them will STOMP ON OUT.

I will release the attitudes I need to release to change the results I am getting.

From:  my personal journal,  “My Life Pages, a companion to The Lotus and the Lily.

Janet Conner - Soul Writing

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Just for a little Facebook creativity project this month, I chose to take my camera with me on a daily walk and post a daily photo of my mini-journeys and get a little exercise as well. Today’s walk was on my backyard labyrinth. A pretty simple walk and not a great distance. This was perfect as I am recovering from a cold and I don’t feel all that peppy.

I paused as I entered the quiet walking path. I always enjoy the circular rungs formed by the bricks that Tom so carefully designed this summer.  As I began to walk the path in toward the center, a song started playing on my Itunes station (inner playing system, not the electronic version).  “I Love to Tell the Story” a sacred hymn we sang a lot back in the year 2000 – the Catholic Church Jubilee celebration.  I went on pilgrimages that year to Rome, Chartres France and to the Encuentro Multi-Culture Celebration in Los Angeles and it seems that is when we sang it a lot.

Actually, I don’t really remember if it was “tell” the story or “hear” the story, but it continued like “tell the story”  as I continued around the circuits of the labyrinth. So I will tell the story of my walk today.


A labyrinth walk is a pilgrimage in a way, but not like the ones I mentioned above which involved all the intricacies of flight reservations, packing, meeting strangers along the way, being in and out of different time zones. It is just a common, ordinary walk on a common, ordinary day. It can bring calm and balance to your spirit. It can provide a space for an answer “to appear” to a question you’ve been pondering. It can be the aisle of a church for reflection and prayer needs.  It looks like just brick and grass. But that is deceiving.


I was wearing Tom’s shoes. Perhaps that made me aware of blessings of healings to offer for him as he recovers from his recent skin cancer operations. I didn’t know that particular song was going to pop into my head (and play loudly, I might add). It might have had something to do with my earlier morning writing and prayer as I develop some writing programs to offer to the senior population of our world.

I had just experienced a “Spirit-Wink” when I came across a short E-course that looks like it would support my beginning curriculum for my course. I call it a Spirit-Wink because I just happened upon the information while looking for something else. So — you know — it just happened….yeah, and it felt just perfect, like I was really looking for it. That’s how I get help.  And I love to help a person find the extraordinary in what she thinks is her ordinary life and write about it.


I am making a decision about taking this course. The fee is a modest amount and I just have to be willing to put in the work, which I actually was not looking for.  I continue to walk and I think the decision has been made. It was put on my path, the one I am currently on.

I see three stones on three different circuits. It makes me laugh as I remember my granddaughter Amy and her friend Logan who often play, run, skip and jump on this labyrinth. I like to build small cairnes (stone stacks) along the labyrinth when I am on it. It occurs to me, the children also like to play games with these stones and they are in these places for their own particular reasons. Maybe tomorrow, I will restack my cairn. Today, I just walk.


Soon, I encounter a small obstacle on my path. Today, it looks small to me, but I am reminded just how large I can sometimes choose to make a small obstacle.


Perhaps it is a matter of perspective, choice, desire and surrender?  Maybe some or all?

Things are not always neat and tidy in life, not in my life, and I assume for the most part, not in others’ lives as well. There is a purpose to be served in the existence of imperfection and chaos. They are the ingredients of transformation. I greet the grass that has sprouted up between the bricks.


A playful grasshopper sprints and jumps upon the brick path and grass, hardly ever staying in one spot long enough for my camera to focus upon him. Now who does that remind me of? I’ve been one who has lots of things going on, many sticks in the fire, and a candle burning at both ends. That was then. This is now…..admittedly a slower pace with the glory of multi-tasking permanently filed away.


I reach the center. I have walked the path into the center, focusing on just the next step ahead. I trust the path. I know it brings me inward — to the center. I understand that, once I agree to walk the path, I will not be stopped, tricked or betrayed into a blocked pathway. It may at times seem that I am close to and entering the center, then it swings me away to a far sweeping perimeter path, perhaps to the other side of the labyrinth. I continue. This is a living metaphor of all that happens in a human life:  Thinking I’m close, no, I am not there yet. Taking a longer, circular path, not a “straight shot” efficient line to the goal….well, there’s a thought. I just walk the path.


As I start back out of the center of the labyrinth, my mind falls upon the desert and green lands of life as I’ve lived it. They are each a reality. But each time the experience of desert existed in my life, I was led to the green pastures once again.  Our labyrinth grass path reminds me of this spiritual truth as part of it was killed in preparation for the stones to be laid in the path. The stones will come in the spring.  The path will have a new texture, just as life always does.


Leaving center and returning on the path out of the labyrinth symbolizes my walk back into my “today” life. I’ve received a lot from my labyrinth pilgrimage today without even going through a security check.

I return to the things at hand. Back to my writer’s table. Back to preparing for more work. Back to getting dinner cooking in the oven. Back to feeling grateful for my gift of life.

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Pilgrimage – Life as Prayer

  “If you give your life as a prayer you intensify the prayer beyond all measure.”
Peace Pilgrim 1908 – 1981

On her pilgrimage from 1953 – 1981 

Her little Pocket size blue book, Steps Toward Inner Peace, has been translated into twenty languages and published in a few many countries. It is a compilation of who she was and how she came to be a pilgrim for peace, a messenger of God’s total and uncompromising love for us and a true living example of how God cares for us.

She had total trust in that as she took up her walking pilgrim way of life, renouncing all worldly goods, traveling on foot wearing only her pilgrim tunic, and sharing with those who cared to listen (and thousands were drawn to her) the true path of peace in the world through inner peace and coming to a correct understanding of the existence of a loving God in every particle of creation. She trusted this God for total provision, eating only when offered food on her journey and sleeping out in the elements unless invited inside by another kind human being.

This unquestioning trust is not possible for a human being unless one has learned a lot about the reality of their being and their connection to all that is holy. She describes making herself ready for her life journey and purpose by what she calls: The four preparations, then the four purifications, followed by the four relinquishments.

I know you can’t just put this stuff on a TO DO list, and check them off, one by one. This is a process of inner journey before the first step of the outer journey of walking begins. I believe we are all called to do this in one form or another.

Maybe not to live our life as Peace Pilgrim did, but I’d venture to guess most of us who are willing to take on this inner voyage mostly do so for the same motivation she had: to find inner peace, a peace that was satisfying, stabilizing, and love-giving. In fact, Peace Pilgrim came to be known, in her crusade for world peace, to say the key to world peace was true inner peace in the individual.

I have believed that for a long time in my life and I still have preparations, purifications, and relinquishments I regularly work on. Maybe that’s why I’m not a pilgrim on the road as she was. But I am a peace light-worker in my life, my family and my work. I also know that whether one works for peace on an individual “little-life” stage or through the power of a larger world-wide attention, that individual must first possess inner peace.  

Peace Pilgrim’s individual discernment, discipline, and open loving heart led her to share freely that which she learned and that which she was given by a Higher Power. She did not force her message of what she knew to be true about God or the way to live upon anyone. She merely walked her path and accepted invitations where she received them. She had no marketing plan. She only had a path to walk.

A pilgrimage is a gentle journey of prayer and example. She wrote, “My walking is first of all a prayer for peace. If you give your life as a prayer you intensify the prayer beyond all measure.”


Sometimes the Truth of someone is so completely spelled out by what they say and how they live that to paraphrase it would do somewhat of an injustice of it. So it is with printed materials about Peace Pilgrim and her message to the world. Since these materials are not copyrighted and readers are made welcome to reprint sections in whole or part, that is what I choose to do in some future notes on napkins about Peace Pilgrim.

Materials on the life and work of Peace Pilgrim are kept alive by a group of volunteers who freely publish and distribute them all over the world. Unpaid volunteer workers and many small donations make this possible.


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For some time now, I’ve known I’ve gotten every penny’s worth out of my $5 special plain, brown purse I purchased at K-Mart. And I’ve been casusally looking for a replacement but not exactly on a mission, even as the straps unraveled and fell apart as I carried it.

But vacation time was upon us and that was really my internal deadline for a new purse. So after shopping for the last vacation items the night before leaving, I “captured” my new purse.

Rather, it really captured me with it’s vibrant colors and pronounced turquoise (always a winner) running throughout the purse with a leather type texture.  The scenes of Paris cinched the deal. It was on special but I had to put out a few extra bucks to get it. I didn’t care. The purse just felt FUN to me. It had all the compartments I required for my purse organization AND it definitely reminded me of my time with Tom in Paris in 2000.

Christine Whitehall, in her binji yoga blog, has been sharing her walks around Paris and the surrounding countryside so my thoughts have floated back to my own Paris memories —  tranquil, enchanted and exciting ones.

So do you know anyone who just goes through Paris on the way to someplace else? That’s what we were doing when we arrived at the Paris airport. We were non-French speaking tourists with no money exchanged in the United States to make our way from the airport to the train station for our concluding trip to Chartres France. We were  on our way to a week-long retreat on the labyrinth with Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, Episcopal priest. 

This was in May 2000, the month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I had previously studied with Rev. Artress at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to become a labyrinth facilitator, but I had no idea of going to France at the time. Things just turned out that way. Like getting onto the labyrinth. You walk to the center and back out again bringing your gift from this quiet walk into the world with you. One of my gifts became a decision made in the future to make the big pilgrimage to Chartres, where this adventure had all began for Rev. Artress.

(Mary, Mother of Christ Child – Chartres Cathedral)

In the mid-nineties, I had picked up her book, “Walking a Sacred Path” at Weber Retreat Center in Adrian Michigan when I was on a weekend retreat on Centering Prayer.  I got interested in both the labyrinth and mandala during that time.  Rev. Artress explains in her book that when she made her pilgrimage trip to Chartres, she felt an overwhelming mission was given to her to make this sacred symbol more known in the United States and in addition to that, to have them created at retreat centers, hospitals, public parks, and cemetaries throughout the land by the year 2000. She succeeded in doing that through her Veritditas Organization.

Grace Cathedral came to have an indoor Cathedral labyrinth and an outdoor plaza labyrinth where on special holy days and New Year’s Day, high on the hill you see tai chi being gracefully performed and serene walkers and graced dance movements following the holy path of the labyrinth.

The labyrinth was not a major part of my spiritual practice, but it was always around throughout the next several years with a pull toward it I could not deny. I assisted with it at my health center and a spiritual center near me. I met a wondrous spiritual director through our mutual interest in the labyrinth and she helped me through a particularly traumatic professional challenge. I traveled to a Sinsinuwa Wisconsin Dominican retreat center focused on hospitality, the creative arts and the labyrinth once again to be with Lauren.

I also gave writing retreats entwined with the labyrinth experience. I got to professionally write and report on the garden labyrinth made on the grounds of the Grand Hotel on our famous vacation island in Michigan, Mackinac Island.

So where does Paris, France come into all of this? The New Millenium year of 2000 had several spiritual energies going for me that just told me this was the time to explore roots.  In January, during the Catholic celebration of Jubilee, we went on the Jubilee diocesan pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and Florence, Italy.

Our sacred paths included walking the halls of the basilicas of Rome, the dusty floors of the catecombs, the artistic halls of Forence Art museums, holding Michealangelo’s David, and the streets and Cathedral of Assisi, where religious history is recorded in Gioto’s world-fames frescos.  History, culture, art, and human revelations of spirituality across time surrounded and absorbed our group of twenty plus pilgrims. Again, I had the task and blessing to record this in writing and in professional video newsletter form.

And I’m still not in Paris! Tom’s and my second pilgrimage across the sea came in May of that year to Chartres, as I mentioned above. So you fly into Paris to get to Chartres. My thought was, we can’t say we went in and “out” of Paris without really being IN Paris. We began to make arrangements to be able to stay in Paris for a few days after the retreat.

With that came more good fortune because Tom’s sister had a good friend who was an American actor, moved to France where he married a writer of romantic novels, and they now lived in Paris just off the Champs – Elysees (Avenue of Champions). When we contacted them about hotel recommendations, they insisted we stay in their large apartment.  We would be able to get anywhere we wanted with ease from their location they advised.

So we did that. Their apartment was like staying in an art museum. Their son was an artist and they were working out scripts for a TV series from their apartment.

We window-shopped the avenues, people watching as much as window gazing. We went to the very top of the Eiffel tower, back-patting ourselves for our bravery as we passed the mid-level viewing platform. Our walks along the Seine were exceptionally pleasing to me, as were the lighted bridges spanning the famous river. We took a Sunday morning boat ride upon the river also, and there was a great soothing energy all up and down the Seine.

We visited the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame. Stopped and prayed a bit.  Not a regular partaker of the sacrament of Penance, I made a split-second decision to go to confession while I was there. The French priest gave me the penance of lightening up on myself and the advice to play more than I was playing! If I ever get back to France, I may go to confession again.

We also visited the Cathedral of Sacre Cour, one of the mainstay sites for tourist visits, with many, many steps up to the church, itself, and a very panoramic view of Paris at the top. Other places we got this type of view was on the tall ferris wheel, the Victory Monument on the Avenue of Champs, and of course, the Eiffel Tower.

Our adventure of the day was almost getting separated at the underground train, as we tried to decide which train to take. Before the day of cell phones, Tom climbed aboard one just as they were clearing the tracks with me still on the platform. I quickly lunged forward to be with him, only to discover by looking at the train wall map, and the motions of the French-speaking riders, that we were going away from our desired destination rather than toward it. The up side? At least we were going away from it together!

We made a very short visit to the Louvre — appreciated the Mona Lisa, and I was especially entranced by the sculpture throughout the museum. They, too, had a magnetic pull. You could not just walk by them. They commanded an appreciation and an acknowledgment. They hold a very special place in art and history and their residence in the Louvre bears witness to it.

Paris was magical. It felt like being in a movie just to be there. Our short time there flew extra fast, it seemed. And a longing remains. One I don’t think will ever disappear. It is to return again for a longer and slower time. The aging process will take care of slower. To be there a little longer, just once again, would be a blessing.

I will think of this the next time I walk a labyrinth. I will live Paris vicariously each time I tote my purse along for the ride.

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Two Coins in the Trevi Fountain in Rome

This is one of my favorite photos with Tom. It is pasted beside my computer on the file cabinet, next to a graphic that says, “All is well in my world.” 

That night in Rome Italy, in January 2000, all was well in my world, as we capped off this late night by tossing our coins in the world-famed Fountain of Trevi.

We had been on a ten-day religious pilgrimage in the 2000 Catholic  Jubilee Year of 2000 in January. It was four things in one for me: a pilgrimage; a work project of writing and photography for the diocesan newspaper; a triple news video assignment on our travels, the pilgrims and pilgrimage,  and a vocations video on our diocesan seminarians studying in Rome for the priesthood. It was also the first overseas travel experience both Tom and I had.

Our group of pilgrims traveled into Chicago by bus on a very snowy day through the snow-zone of the Lake Michigan land border and boarded the giant 727 Lufthansa airbus for the long flight over Greenland and into Rome the next day. Our hotel accommodations were just off Vatican Square, and the night views were charming.

The Christmas Cretch of the stable and holy figures were still in St. Peter’s Square.  I have awesome photos of the moon rising in the black nighttime skies behind the Vatican dome. I the photographer, was surrounded by the famous ancient and artistic Roman columns circling us.

It was a busy pilgrimage. We jostled with the Italiano press as we filmed from the upper balcony our general audience with the late Pope John Paul II. He, in his address, greeted the pilgrim group, among thousands below us…. “from Ka…La….Ma…..Zoo”.

Previous to this pilgrimage time, I had taken a reading fancy to the history of Karol Wojtyla, his Polish background, his work in the arts with youth, and his work with world leaders for peace and his faithfulness and inspiration he gave to his native homeland of Poland to “stay brave and be strong and the iron curtain will fall.”  So I appreciated the opportunity to be in the presence of this man, who now was close to the end of his life on earth.

We made visits to each of the Basilicas in Rome; St. Peter, St. John Latern, St. Paul and St. Mary Majoria taking in minutia of facts about religious history and the master artists, Michelangelo’ Sistine Chapel in Rome, and the statue of David  in Florence,  and Italian fresco painter and architect Giotto in St. Francis Basilica in Assisi.

We crawled through the underground paths of the catacombs, where early Christians hid but were willing to brave death for this new religion of Christianity. Our pilgrimage priest guide celebrated Mass with us in the catacombs and when we sang “Faith of our Fathers”, it rang completely through my historical bones and gave me goose bumps.

We could not take our video equipment underground in the catacombs and photography was discouraged in the general instructions but John insisted that Tom take some photos for the record. It turns out that at the elevation of the host, I hear, “czhic, czzick.”of a finger pressing a camera button near me.  And this was the photo I turned over to the national Catholic News Service and it ran in papers around the country. We were not sure if we had to put Tom in the witness protection plan or not, but no harm came from it.

I also had become interested in knowing more background on the fascinating St. Francis before and after he became so dedicated totally to God and founding his order of brothers, the Franciscans. The saint, who loved the land, and would have been our “green saint” of modern times.

I fantasized walking over more of the hills and valleys of his beloved Umbria. I loved walking the stone streets lined with the stone shops that took us pilgrim right back to the late Middle Ages as we were celebrating the arrival of the new millennium.  You could almost expect St. Francis, as a young man and extravagant balladeer to pop out from one of the buildings and coerce you to sing and dance with him.

So there were many fabulous experiences, seeing, learning, composing sound bites and images, video scripts and newspaper texts along the “once in a lifetime” experience we were having. We started as a complete group of strangers making our way along a shared path and finished the pilgrimage as a group of friends who had bonded together and revealed what was important and inspiring to each of us.

The happiness apparent in this picture at Trevi was the culmination of one wonderful night Tom and I shared with the three contracted video communication professionals who accompanied us on this trip to capture the experience for the diocesan record. I was used to doing videos in our western Michigan diocese with them in the schools, parishes, and ministries throughout forty-seven separate parishes.

These twenty-minute quarterly video newsletters brought a sense of unity to the diocese as different areas were spotlighted and could shine their light for others to see. I loved my work with the video company Susan and John led and Matt performed main camera duties. The work was exciting and we were all perfectionists and we had a lot of fun creating “The Good News”.

This was a large assignment for us in Rome and of course there were no “do-overs” possible, so along with the wonders of the pilgrimage, came the intensity of getting our work right.

We lost the video crew once, when we left the lower St. Francis Basilica after celebrating Mass over St. Francis’ tomb. The pilgrims all hurried back to the bus because the bus driver had said he would have to leave promptly; he had very short approval to park where we were. Without sighting the crew, we assumed they were on the bus when ,in fact, they were enjoying the fabulous Umbrian field and valley views from the upper level, thinking we had not left yet. Two pilgrims got lost on the way back to the bus, shopping in Assisi.

Sometimes it was difficult to video in places I had prearranged authorization, so Susan, found herself running “interference” distracting the St. Peter’s guard by talking about the “Pieta” while we got down the aisles to take film footage.  News reporting happened on site — cold, cold, wind blowing sites. And the Italiano policia were always about whenever we set up shots in St. Peter’s Square and negotiations on the spot began all over again.

We were under the expert guidance on the Italy side of the pilgrimage of a young woman, Simone. She was a native of Rome, who lived and worked in the city she loved. She thought she had the perfect job showing her city and it’s religious and cultural, and arts background to visitors and the constant shine in her eyes let you know that.

On a “free-night” for the pilgrims, she pulled Tom and I and Susan, John and Matt together and told us she had arranged a “real, Italian experience” for just us and she wanted to pull us away from the rest of the group for one night. This would be our time. We were to be ready at seven p.m.

She guided us to an Italian restaurant, off the tourist track, and told us she would be back to check on us. There were not many guests in the restaurant, but we discovered that seven p.m. was an early time for the citizens of Rome to eat dinner. They did, indeed, come in much later in the night.

We were still there much later in the night because none of us spoke Italian and that is the only language the staff spoke. Tom had a little language converter and would come up with short phrases when someone visited our table, but other than that, we kind of pantomimed our way through dinner.

A waiter came over and performed card tricks for us. He told us jokes in Italian, and when he laughed, we laughed. We ordered “something”. And at different intervals, the waiter just kept bringing us more to eat.  I think Tom finally said something close to “check, please” to the waiter in something close to Italian. Up till then, we laughed, told stories, relaxed, and drank wine.

Simone popped back in late in the night, surprised we were still at the restaurant, and shared dessert with us. She said we were not far from Trevi Fountain and she would head our cab driver in that direction before bringing us back to the hotel.

We made our wishes in the cold, crisp Italian winter night, but it was hard to come up with a wish. We were all quite fine having a most wonderful night.

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