The Spirituality of Place

Barb Spies, OFS, Director of Mission Services and Pastoral Care

We have come to the end of summer. Fall has begun. Our days of travel and adventure may wait till warmer times again. While we might not be planning a weekend up north, or a trip to the Dells, a pilgrimage can be a way to refresh our souls. Phil Cousineau, in his book The Art of Pilgrimage, says “A pilgrimage is a transformative journey to a sacred center … a pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion … pilgrimage is a powerful metaphor for any journey with the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler.” Some can do a far away pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to the Camino de Santiago, to Assisi. But, there is a lot of peace to be found in the local pilgrimage.

A friend of mine made a point each week of finding her way into churches throughout her home city. She’d spend time looking at the doorways that welcomed people in, praying the pews that held so many faithful over the years, and admiring the stained glass and artwork found at each site. She learned about the history of each church and the tale of the faithful that history told.

Last week I had the pleasure of offering a workshop for Franciscan friars. The role of a Director of Mission leads to interesting opportunities to connect with those who are part of the Franciscan family, to immerse myself in the charism, to learn more about serving others, and to offer my own skills and knowledge to the service of a community. The workshop was in Santa Barbara, California, at Old Mission Santa Barbara. This mission, which is 237 years old, is a site of pilgrimage for me. Fr. Roch Niemier, OFM said, “Places have their own power, one that evokes meaning, direction and spirit. When we visit them thoughtfully, we can experience the presence of those who have been there before us. We can sense something of their spirit.” In addition to the mission work of the instruction I offered during the week, I made sure to spend time each day in quiet prayer and reflection. The Mission presents many opportunities that allow for being open to discovery and receptive to the movement of God’s grace: gardens, chapels, paintings, statues, butterflies, birds, and a view of the ocean. The Franciscans that I spent the week with also presented the sacred pouring forth in the journeys of their lives, sharing their wisdom and the power to serve others.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us, “These are the words of the Lord of hosts: Stand at the crossroads and look around; ask for the ancient paths. When you are shown where the good way lies, walk along it and your souls will find rest. (Jer. 6:16). Look for that ancient path, that pilgrim path, to give your soul rest.

Blessed Angela: “Look at everything with the eyes of faith and accept everything as coming from God.”

Some content requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.