Time during a pilgrimage is slow and reflective. Thoughts are tuned to the rhythm of each step and made fruitful by that which is met along the way: the cultivated fields, vast meadows of sunflowers, the valleys, flower petals covered in drew. Instead of fleeing into forgetfulness, what is seen accompanies the journey. You feel a friendly presence. Your eyes meet landscapes from angles that perhaps no one has ever paused to notice, beauty that is still intact, instants of intimacy with landscapes that have perhaps, until that moment, only been enjoyed by God. All these landscapes are given to me to be carried to the feet of Mary where they are offered back.
Each day the walk is marked by rosaries and readings from the life of Jesus. The fields we pass through accompany us in listening to the words. Christ once again walks the streets burnt by the Sun, praises the providence of the Father in the faces of the birds, and reveals the reason for his coming in the flesh, in the sacred womb of Mary. We are moving towards that exact place, to that corner of the world that is the Holy Land where Mary embraced the Word between those walls of the sacred house that have ever since welcomed countless pilgrims to regenerate them.
As we walk, certain parts of the body begin to hurt, muscles that you never imagined to have. The hills, the heat, the fatigue: sometimes you find yourself even out of breath. Even praying the rosary becomes a challenge, the words struggle to pass through the tired mouth. More than bringing our words, we go to the Virgin Mary to bring her our poor selves. In that exchange of gazes with her is our dwelling place. For nine months a mother speaks with her son, even before she knows his face and voice. For many months after she continues to interpret in his stirrings his different needs, until the first words are pronounced from the inexpert mouth. This is how Mary gazes on us. A few kilometers away from the destination, we reach Recanati, the home of Giacomo Leopardi. This poet knew how to receive the beauty that is hidden in what is small and fleeing. With a few verses he forever immortalized a simple marketplace, a hill like any other, or a solitary hedge. God is an artist. Like him we are called to learn a way of seeing that frees the glory that is closed in the cavities of the earth, that knows how to perceive in the passing fragment the traces of the definitive kingdom. With his words, the poet of The Infinite entrusted to the eternal the places of his daily life, thus consecrating them. We are priests: through words, our lives and the lives of those in the great square, that is the world, are offered and conformed to the Body of Christ, which is a body transfigured by light, a definitive and eternal body.
Finally, Loretto! Not alone, but together with the brothers and sisters who walked at my side. Immediately after entering the sacred House, my thoughts flash back to the last time I stood in the same place ten years ago. At that time I was nervous because I intuited that God was calling me to the priesthood, and because I couldn’t seem to make up my mind. So, standing there was like reliving the liberation, the tears, that “yes” that I was still not able to pronounce alone, but that She was able to intuit and welcome into Her arms. Under her motherly gaze, I felt as if I were born anew. Today I am here, now as a priest, because of a discreet calling, that only now, kneeling in front of Her, do I recognize fully. I have been guided sweetly, almost unaware, between these walls. She was the one leading me by the hand through those who accompanied me, in a continuous dialogue, that needed to be physical, face to face. Through this journey, these stones from faraway lands have become so familiar to me.
(Stefano Tenti is the general treasurer of the Fraternità of St. Charles Borromeo. The photo was taken during a moment of the pilgrimage)