“What’s going to happen?”
In 2014, when my father was near the beginning of what turned out to be his final illness, my brother and I asked each other that question continually. Would Dad be able to keep living alone? Was there any chance we could persuade him to move somewhere without six bedrooms and three flights of stairs? Could we possibly shift our lives and responsibilities to care for him ourselves? What’s going to happen? Over and over we repeated this unanswerable mantra, until life unfolded and we lived our way into the answers. (Which turned out to be, for the specific questions above: no, heck no, and absolutely.)
As I prepare to depart for the Ignatian Camino–the pandemic-deferred pilgrimage I’ve been dreaming about for more than three years now–I find myself echoing the same question. What’s going to happen? My logistics are as ready as they’re ever going to be. My socks are double-layered. My shoes are broken in. My satchel and suitcase are organized. There’s a decent chance I’ve overpacked, but my bag remains dramatically under the weight limit. And, unlike the trip to Peru I joke about in my “Take Nothing for the Journey” retreat, I’m not bringing a single Whitman’s Sampler.
I’ve been focusing on the externals because they are all-consuming, yet I know that, once I set foot out of Loyola Castle, they will be far from all-important. Everything essential will be happening on the inside, in the space that my prayer and my walking create for God. Although I have mental images of what it will be like to stand in the room where Ignatius recovered from his cannonball injury, or to pray in the Cave of Manresa where he developed the Spiritual Exercises, or to walk step after step through the same mountains and vineyards and deserts and villages he saw, the only thing I know for sure is that I will be surprised.
Therefore, as my spiritual director wisely advised, all I can do is strive to be open to the grace that will be meeting me there. And I do know, from that hospice experience, the power of being met by grace.
I’ll return to this blog space after the pilgrimage; in the meanwhile, I hope you’ll follow our journey on the Ignatian Volunteer Corps website, which will be posting whatever photos and ruminations I manage to send from along the way.
What’s going to happen? God knows.
And that’s enough for me.