Journeying in the Easter season

I travelled several hours on a bus recently.

50 people all travelling in one direction: a pilgrim people.

50 people all in one vessel. Some in front: others loving the back. Some by the window. Some alone: others in pairs or groups. Some wanting interaction: others seeking ‘personal space’. All adapting to their time in this vessel. Electronic toys and phones. Headphones. Books. Conversation and companionship. Sleep or observation.

Before boarding, each had to decide what to take for the journey, within the allowances permitted. Each piece of luggage needed a label with the final destination. Each had to decide what to take on board as hand luggage. Each had to state their name to the driver.

Entering the bus, we had to choose a seat. Many of the places were already filled by people who had been on the journey for a while. Other seats were newly vacated. How do I decide where I want to be? How do I quickly decide who will be an agreeable travelling companion? What do I do with my hand luggage – keep it close and feel cramped, or store it overhead and give myself room to enjoy the journey?

Once the bus drew out from the station, the driver spoke. He introduced himself. Gave a quick review of ‘pit stops’ and travel times. Briefly described how to use the vehicle’s facilities. Informed us of legal (seat belts) and moral (disposal of rubbish) obligations.

At our first stop, we had a change of drivers. A new style. A new sense of purpose.

I was constantly entertained by the actions and sounds around me. Bop it! Twirl it! Push it! Spin it! Multiple conversations and sound bites. Music- loud -even through head phones. The sound of the motor. Now and then it was more of a cacophony!

I disembarked at my destination … but the bus was carrying on. Luggage was deposited on the platform. No farewells. I would now continue my journey in a different way. A new beginning.

We were all individuals.

We all retained our unique identity.

We all related and adapted in different ways.

We all continued our journey … a new beginning.

In this Easter season, many people have boarded the Barque of Peter: they have been received into the Catholic Church. They have joined the pilgrimage of the People of God. They chose a destination: the arms of a loving God. They have publicly stated their name and their desire.

Many had to carefully review the ‘baggage’ they brought along. Some is discarded or put aside for a while. Some decide they will not travel if they cannot bring all that they desire. All baggage is boldly labelled.

Some have come on their own. Others have come as a couple or in a group. All have had to choose a companion (or sponsor) for this journey. Have they been comfortable with this companion: challenged? supported? given space to grow? given a balance of group activity and personal space?

They have been told the rules. Given reasons why they can or cannot; should or should not undertake this journey. Sometimes the driver (Parish priest, catechist, sponsor) changes mid-journey. They have to adapt. Some cannot.

There are many distractions. Information from many sources. Parish groups seeking new members. Prayer cards thrust into unsuspecting hands. Unfamiliar words and actions. A new ‘Church-speak’ to understand. Sometimes the cacophony is too much. They disembark.

What ‘pit stops’ does the Barque of Peter offer? Spiritual nourishment for this journey? Retreats? Time for silence? Companionship? Direction? A listening ear? A prayer partner? Someone to sit with at Mass?

Newly baptised or received into the Catholic Church… is this their final destination?  No … it is another beginning. The bus company has no responsibility for me once I disembarked. But the Church (you and me) is different … or should be.

We cannot welcome people in at Easter and then abandon them. What happens next? Are there people to greet, welcome and accompany them on the journey? Or do they have to make their own way: find a niche which suits their personality and spirituality? Do we celebrate and cherish all their life experiences or do we expect conformity and submission?

They are all individuals.

They all retain their unique identity.

They all relate and adapt in different ways.

They all continue their journey … their new beginning as beloved children of God.

Are we hospitable enough; expansive enough; generous enough; to share our journey with them?

News category: Analysis and Comment.

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