Pope Francis is encouraging the faithful to live life like a pilgrimage, continuing forward in good times and bad, picking oneself up after falls, and seeking to return to the right road if a wrong turn is made.
The Pope said this in a video message he sent to participants in the annual pilgrimage from Macerata to Loreto.
The near-17.5 mile (28 kilometer) pilgrimage is made on foot and at night, concluding at the Shrine of Loreto where the Holy House is.
The Holy House is traditionally held to be the home of the Holy Family. Tradition says that in 1294, the Holy House of Nazareth, where the Virgin Mary was born and where the Annunciation took place, was transported by angels to the town of Loreto.
Loreto has thus been a pilgrimage site since the early 14th century.
The Macerata-Loreto pilgrimage is in its 37th year and this year had the theme “Caressed by Mercy.”
The Pope’s video message was transmitted to the pilgrims last Saturday evening while the pilgrims gathered for the opening Eucharistic celebration, which was presided over by Cardinal George Pell.
This year the Holy Father’s message was recorded earlier and sent to the Bishop of Macerata, since the Pope on Saturday made a one-day apostolic trip to Sarajevo.
“A pilgrimage is a symbol of life; it makes us think that life is to walk, it is a path,” the Pope said in his message. “If a person does not walk and stays still, it’s no good, he does nothing.”
Saying a soul can become stagnant like water, the Holy Father encouraged, “A soul that does not walk in life doing good, doing the many things that must be done for society, to help others and who also does not walk through life seeking God moved by the Holy Spirit from within, is a soul that ends in mediocrity and spiritual misery. Please: do not stop in life!”
Pope Francis said that falls can happen along the path of life, but the key is to rise again. “If you have made a mistake rise immediately and continue to walk,” he said. “‘Sing and walk,’ said Saint Augustine to his faithful. Walk with joy and walk also when the heart is sad, but always walk. And if you need to stop, may it be to rest a while and get some breath to go forward afterwards. Sing and walk! Always sing and walk!”
As well, the Holy Father reflected, there is the danger of taking a mistaken path.
“This can happen to any one of us, and how many times we have done this. If you err on the road, return. Return, because there is Jesus’ mercy. You are doing this pilgrimage ‘Caressed by Mercy.’ Jesus’ mercy forgives everything; he always awaits you, he always loves you so much.”
The Bishop of Rome said the nighttime pilgrimage was a good moment for each pilgrim to reflect on his personal history.
“Each one of you knows his own history. We all know our own. ‘O Father, I have fallen so often.’ There comes to mind that beautiful song of mountain climbers: the art of climbing isn’t not to fall, but not to remain fallen. Sing and walk and if you fall, rise: there is the caress of Jesus’ mercy that forgives everything and there is joy there, the joy of that encounter with Jesus.
“In this long nocturnal evening, in this night of walking, think of your life. What must I do with my life? What does Jesus say I must do with my life? What does the Lord think for me? Is there is joy in my heart to sing while I walk? If there is no joy, look for it! The Lord will give it to you, he will give it to you with his mercy.”
The Pope concluded by saying that he would pray for the pilgrims, and was united with them spiritually from Sarajevo.
“May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you. And may each one’s Guardian Angel say in your ear: ‘Sing and walk!’”
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