An Unforseen Pilgrimage

Traveling and striving to live a saintly life: do they fit together? Not necessarily. Yet, as it was for me, traveling often allows us to expand our horizons in order to see beyond ourselves.

It was 2007 and placed in my lap was the opportunity to help plan and travel to France, a little town named Annecy to be exact. This pilgrimage would be a walk in the footsteps of St. Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church who lived on the cusp of the 16th and 17th centuries. Having a five and three year old at home,  I did not consider it prudent to leave the country for 9 days but then as I came to realize, this pilgrimage became larger than my small life and so I set out to organize my absence and the care of my two babies.

It was an early morning in October and I welcomed the warm breeze that blew as I assisted the group with securing their baggage on the bus that would take us to the airport. I was not thinking of the trip as it pertained to my own experience but rather the many tedious details that come when organizing such a pilgrimage. However, it was my first trip abroad so you can imagine that every sight and sound was both exotic and exhilarating. As for the rest of the group, I could tell they were all seasoned travelers so I was sure to hide my awe and awkwardness.  As we entered the airport in France, I was immediately struck by the fact that it looked like almost any airport terminal in the United States. “Well”, I thought, “this is not such a vast difference after all!” That one thought was the last one I would have of its kind for the next nine days.

As we exited the airport and found our bus, I became embarrassingly aware that it might have been a good idea to practice some of the basic French phrases that lay inside the book I so carefully ordered, which was now tucked inside my large suitcase. What I had failed to see was that the difference would not take place in my surroundings as much as it would within me.

Charmoisy house

{Photo courtesy of L.A. McFadden}

Fast forward to the first time I walked the streets and alleyways through the small town of Annecy.  I remember the sensation of the stone bridges under my feet and the sound of the native residents. I remember the exact moment when I realized that “I was not in Kansas anymore”.  I needed to find a way to communicate with a waiter regarding a much needed snack as he stared at me vacantly and I fumbled through my French translation book!

It was only a day or two into my trip to Annecy that my life and its path became glaringly obvious to me. I was consumed by the culture of this very old town and swallowed up by the beauty of the chapels I entered and the magnificent importance that was placed on God. My God, the same God I knew, or thought I knew, all my life. Then it was clear, God lives here.  I found the place, not geographically but internally, where God lived and it was as much of a surprise to me as anything ever could have been. God lives in me.

It was that moment eight years ago that forever changed the pursuit of my life. Although my soul reassures me that I will return to Annecy one day, I find myself traveling to churches, spiritual sanctuaries, and yes, even across the short distance of my office to our library to find and read everything I can pertaining to Francis de Sales and God. From that first moment when this thirst began, I have pursued my love of the written word.  Attending college and graduating with a bachelors degree in theology, I began to surround myself with piles of books written by Lewis, Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope St. John Paul II, St. Augustine and Kierkegaard…I pour over them for daily strength, guidance, humor and insight.

My faith journey began when I was a child when my father first introduced me to the Bible. I was small, blinded, and often misguided by the natural processes of life and growing up, so my faith, as it were, sat and waited. This new journey with my eyes wide open and my heart clear is the story of my devotion to God.  It is a journey to travel towards and embrace the struggles, glory, revelation and knowledge of the purpose I was created for and to grow in gratitude to the one who leads my heart.

 

L.A. McFadden of Pennsylvania | Lore is a mom, assistant director and graduate student. She is in love with her journey .”Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”-St. Augustine

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