Warning: this is a LONG rumination! Read it when you are in the mood for something to chew on.
When I traveled with Maryknoll missionaries to campus ministry sites in Peru and Bolivia in 2001, I felt prepared for anything. In my suitcase—one of the largest in our group—I had clothes for every climate, remedies for every malady, and even “hostess” gifts for every community: four one-pound Whitman Sampler boxes! With difficulty, I dragged that giant bag up and down the stairs of each new residence; with embarrassment, I watched our guides strain to get it to the top of the bus each time we changed cities.
At the other end of the packing spectrum was Fr. Claude, an older Canadian priest, who carried only a duffel bag. A smallish duffel bag at that—and it was not full. He wore the same sweater every day, and washed his socks and underwear in the bathroom sink each night. My chocolate weighed more than his luggage! Watching him hop up and down steps and on and off buses with that thing, I experienced a wee bit of judgment (no one was turning to him for Band-Aids or Pepto-Bismol) and a hefty dose of jealousy. Fr. Claude might not have brought any presents, but he was so unencumbered that he was free to share the gift of his presence everywhere we went.
Fr. Claude might not have brought any presents, but he was so unencumbered that he was free to share the gift of his presence everywhere we went.
That experience, almost twenty years ago, stirred my lasting interest in packing—both logistically and as a metaphor—as it shows up in life, in literature, and even in Scripture. Cleaning out deceased loved ones’ houses, downsizing, and giving up my office (AKA overflow storage) added a new intensity to my wrestling match with “stuff.” And now, as I plan for the Ignatian Camino this fall, I realize I will finally be taking a page from Fr. Claude’s book: in Spain, I will be washing my (limited) unmentionables in the sink each night!Continue reading