Marriage as a Pilgrimage
Occasionally life is described as a pilgrimage. This was more normal in the past. While we don’t often go on pilgrimages to-day, the symbolism still holds true. Like life, pilgrimages are a bit messy, even the best ones have their chaotic moments. They have a beginning and they are meant to reach a final destination. Family life, itself, can be understood in terms of a life-long pilgrimage. The beginning point is the love that a man and woman have for each other and the final destination is heaven. The purpose of our life together is to ensure that each person in our families make it to the end (i.e., to heaven).
In the summer of 2011 many youths walked great distances to Compostello in the mountains of Spain during World Youth Day. They started out singing, laughing, joking, well provisioned, with high hopes, having made vows to reach the end point of the pilgrimage. Gradually, the hot weather or rain will make the going rough but most were determined to persevere. This is the nature of a pilgrimage.
Marriage is very much like a pilgrimage. In the journey of marriage, all sorts of trials will test the mettle of our resolve and of our relationship. But as husband and wife keep their eyes on the goal (i.e., their final destination), they will keep on keeping on.
Marriage, like any pilgrimage, can get difficult. What do we do then? I think that the Church needs to include amongst its cardinal virtues one characteristic that has been practiced by countless couples over the centuries: the virtue of “pig-headed-ness”. It is this very quality that has kept many Christian couples intact in the face of strong secular pressure. This is particularly true to-day because our world no longer understands the mystery of God and has rejected His teaching. One has to be pretty determined (translated: pig-headed) if you hope to survive and if you do, you will, like Jesus, be a ‘sign of contradiction’ in to-day’s world.
As pilgrims walk, stones get into their shoes, blisters appear on feet, muscles get tired and the temptation to call the whole thing off grows stronger. In family life, we are constantly inundated by things too great for us We are taxed beyond our resources. But that is precisely the point. We cannot make this marital journey on our own strength. To be a Christian requires supernatural resources. There is simply no other way. Our obstacles, our impossible situations, even those times when we border on despair, all become the opportunities to recognize our limitations and become invitations to cry out to Christ.
Pilgrimages and marriages are supernatural events. In both we get to know Christ and our brothers and sisters in Him through the very nitty-gritty things of life. As we persevere in our earthly pilgrimage even if we seem to have failed in the world’s eyes, we will discover we have made it home. Alleluia!