Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Day 45 Mercy

The Year of Mercy has begun, just in time, I think.  I reached the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the rain Sunday afternoon, as scheduled.  Northeastern Iowa I found quite pretty, even in its pig-scented sogginess.  The southeastern-most corner of Minnesota even more so, lacking pigs, and no more compass-straight roads to follow; instead, dirt lanes following the natural contours of the land.

While I missed Guadalupe Day by one day, by arriving on the 13th, I was able to enter the church through the specially designated pilgrim doors.  The shrine is rather new, and rather posh, huge grounds, tasteful buildings and services, and a welcome center - no pilgrim house yet, but the staff was efficient at finding superb accommodations for me for the night in a nearby convent.  I left, as usual, at dawn - and as seems increasingly usual, in the rain...

Following small roads, I climbed through mists and downpours into the rolling Wisconsin hinterland of huge barns full of dairy cows.  Midday, I passed through a village cheerfully named 'Coon Valley', then onto a small road up another valley.  A fella in a work truck pulled aside and offered a ride.  I declined easily (since the rain had stopped), and he offered me his coffee.  We talked for a few minutes and he ended by saying 'people around here are generally real friendly.'  A few miles later, a woman driving down the valley pulled aside asking if I needed a ride. 'No thanks, I'm enjoying the beauty of this valley on foot.'  She laughed at that - it had started raining again - and concluded that I should feel comfortable, people here are always willing to help a stranger.

After another mile or so, a gruff guy pulled up from behind in a huge SUV, an unseen big dog barking obnoxiously in the back.  The guy shouted to me curtly - 'Hey! I want a word with you!'  Answering his aggressive tone with a forced smile, I accommodated his request.  'My neighbor just called me to say that you were poking around my driveway and house.  We don't like people like you around here.  Just last month, two different times, I had to call the sheriff to chase them away.'  Being unjustly accused of trespassing, I told him in as pleasant a tone as I could muster that his neighbor was mistaken and that I was only walking on the public road since leaving the convent that morning.  I told him that I'm a pilgrim of peace.  Recovering from the accusation and aggression, I offered that just last week, the Pope opened the Year of Mercy, saying "everyone should make a pilgrimage, in part by foot".  'Don't you know that there's a pilgrim shrine just a few hours' walk from here?  Yesterday, the Cardinal opened the special pilgrim doors - which is pretty big deal.  You can expect more pilgrims, if that's what you meant by "people like me" [with emphasizing air-quotes], so go ahead and put the sheriff's number on speed-dial if you're going to call every time you see a person with a backpack.'  The guy notably gasped his disapproval, and rendered speechless, sped off in a huff.  I'm certainly glad to have encountered the two kind and friendly valley residents before Mr. Gruffity.

The next day - yesterday - between raindrops, I stopped to rest in a village coffeeshop-gas station-convenience store.  The ubiquitous old men sitting around talking about land auctions, equipment repairs, and hunting, fell silent with curiosity as I walked toward the counter, a few standing up respectfully, a few scooping off their caps nodding "morning, ma'am"... coffee came, a doughnut per usual, and the questions - where are you going, where are you from, etc.  When I explained that I'm heading to the Shrine of Ste Anne and that I just visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on the way to the Shrine at Holy Hill, and hope to be at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help by Christmas, one of the men spoke up after a long silent pause with 'I had an uncle who was a Shriner' to the nodding approval of his cronies.  I love the gesture of finding something in common with a stranger to make everyone feel good.  Everyone should make an added effort to show mercy - especially to someone who looks a bit different.


Michèle Dextras said...

What lovely words! I hope the weather improves and that you make all your goals. Thank you again for allowing me to "travel" with you.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

Hi Ann!
We're glad to read that you are going well.
The winter is not to hard this year. :-)
There's a lot of places in Quebec where there's still no snow.
Like you were mentionning in your post, the year of Mercy have begin, and there was a special celebration at the cathedral of Quebec city for the opening of the Saint Door (don't know if it's the good way to name it in english...), a touching moment.

To keep the people inform of your pilgrimage, we will share you're last post on our blog this week.

Well, we are keeping you in our prayers. We wish you a Merry beautiful Christmas!
It will be a pleasure to meet you for Easter.

God bless

Eric and Brigitte
Bottes et Vélo (Boots'n Bike)

pilgrimpoustinik said...

As you are no doubt aware, Ann, the word "pilgrim" comes from "peregrine" which means stranger. Strangers, vagabonds, wanderers, etc. are suspect because they "have not settled down or keep a nine to five job like decent and respectable people." Thanks for being willing to be misunderstood out of love for God and the truth. The rain is one more sign of God's mercy coming down from heaven. Journey on in love. Pilgrim George

Bogey Onya9 said...

Anyone who is lucky enough to be able to share a cup of coffee or a meal with the Winter Pilgrim is in for a treat. What a fountain of knowledge, wisdom, and amazing experiences. I hope we cross paths again some day.