But something came to me this morning as I was once more thinking about that question. I think - better still, I feel deep in my bones - that one of the most precious gifts of pilgrimage was/is "community". Christine and John Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts have a real gift of forming community, and doing it quickly. I so value their emphasis on and value of community.
From the very first moment we gathered in the parlor of the Adare Guesthouse, the emphasis was "We are a community of pilgrims on the road together". It amazes me still how quickly all these personalities became One, and that sense of connection to them still feeds my soul.
|From Left to Right: Maura, Lisa, John, Rebecca, Zohra|
Heath, Alix, Polly, Sheila, Marie, Martha Louise, Barbara, Christine
Monks on the Wild Edges, 2014
But what if we ALSO need a space that holds us at our very best? a space that only calls for our goodness. What if "real" community is at it's core a "family" of wholeness? What if the "best me" that those pilgrim monks saw for 8 days IS the true me? What if the depth of goodness that I sensed in each person IS the "real" them? It's a glorious thing to be held, believed, and honored as "holy". What a gift to be with flesh and blood that's never seen or experienced my broken ego self. Something inside me has opened and room has been made for the "holy me", not just the broken me. I am a part of several communities here locally. Some of them know, honor, and lift up the broken me, and I so cherish them.I don't know how I'd make it through life without them; but there is a community here on the face of this earth, right now, who knows and loves my True Self, my God Self - and it's the only Self they they've ever seen. My True Self is all they know.
I remember listening to a tape one morning and Richard Rohr was talking about Jesus being the Son of God. He marveled (and so do I) at what it would be like to be carried in the womb for nine months by a woman who continually whispered, "You are God". What if each one of us were told 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year that we are holy, compassionate, good, honorable, beautiful, and a child of God. I suspect that would pull God into and out of us in a beautiful way.
And I experienced that for 8 days. For 8 days I was privileged to be a part of a community who sang to ME (looking me in the eye) each time we met, "Holy is this One". And they didn't just sing it, they meant it. And something inside me shifted just a little bit more. For 8 days I never heard once about anything I had done wrong. For 8 days I felt, from my own True Self, compassion and mercy, gentleness and love oozing from every pore. I felt called to BE who I really and truly am, at my core. I AM love. And the community that held me for 8 days KNOWS that about me. I don't have to prove it to them. They KNOW it. It's all they've experienced of me. That's what they poured into me, that's what I received, and that's what I was empowered to give back.
And if there's a favorite thing about my trip to Ireland, it's the sense of community that I came home with. Thank you Pilgrim Monks. Thank you John and Christina. Now I know there's at least ONE group who has only experienced the REAL me, and they really believe that I AM the child of God. And they expect nothing less than the true Me to be.