Pilgrimage to Uniontown: A Reminder of Life’s Purpose

TIA group picFaith can be a challenging subject in our lives. It is something that is deeply personal yet challenges us into a relationship with one another. For no matter how hard we try to keep it within us, the joy that follows will always seek to be shared.

Growing up, the parish church ladies would board a bus and head off to a famous small town called “Uniontown, PA.” Upon their return they would sing songs, talk about experiences, and the best part; share their honey cake treats with the entire parish. While the parish no longer sent a bus to this sacred place, “the pilgrimage” to Our Lady of Perpetual Help as it was told to me, was one of those experiences that you just needed to participate in.

So, what did I do? With a leap of faith, I jumped in my car and headed off to the promised land called Uniontown.

They say the pilgrimage (the way getting there) is just as important as the destination. Well, they should have said that differently, because as soon as I got through half of Pennsylvania in a torrential downpour, I questioned to myself “Jerry, what are you doing?” That question sat with me as I reflected on the countless souls that traveled the same path over the years. Why was everyone heading to Uniontown? What could be so special about this place? Those questions soon revealed an answer as I laid my feet on the holy ground of Mt. Saint Macrina.

Opening my car door, the songs of praise and prayer seemed to flow through the wind and trees on top of the hill. There a small gathering of faithful prayed while I stood in silence. I was here, I had arrived at the blessed holy site of my ancestors.

But why? Why did I make this long drive to this small piece of property outside of Pittsburgh? What was I searching for? Could it be peace, after a rocky few weeks within the Catholic Church, or was I looking for the reminder of hope? Could it have been for something greater? What could have been the draw?

Holiness. That is what it had to be.

Holiness was the draw. Everywhere you went, you walked, you sat or stood, you found people around you seeking the same thing – holiness.

They came to seek deeper in their relationship with Christ, to build up their confidence in the faith, and be reminded of their true purpose as a Catholic and Christian. They came to be united in their call, and they came to be with their Blessed Mother. Could it possibly be that I came to seek the same thing? To be renewed in faith, to find a definite answer to my life’s journey?

Gazing on the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we find the story within of how child Jesus, given visions of His passion and death, runs so fast in fear to Mary that He almost loses His shoe. However, in the embrace of his Blessed Mother, He is restored in his confidence.

I too have run to our Blessed Mother. I have run in hope of an answer, for the warm reminder that all would be well.

Life is a process. We are reminded over and over again in the life of Christ – of the challenge, the fear, the joy, and the hope in a daily surrender of our own wills and life forward. We look at Mary’s fiat (her yes) when the angel appeared and told her that she was to give birth to the son of God, yet was not married, and fearful of what people would say. How was she to explain all that was happening? How was she to trust in God’s plan?

We look even to the final moments of Christ in the night before his crucifixion “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” Matthew 26:42

Christ gives us a clear example of surrendering, sacrificing, and living for a greater purpose, not of his own, but of his heavenly fathers.

Something is always dying, and something is always giving life.
There is a beautiful story in the Gospel of St. John about Jesus’ call of the fisherman: “After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command, I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.” They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. -Luke 5:4-7

It is interesting to note how the disciples were ready to give up, yet God reached out one more time and asked them to try the other side. What do you do when it looks like there is no more hope? What do you do when you think it just is impossible to share in a relationship with one another, to be open, vulnerable, broken, hurt,…

 … forgiven, and loved.

Maybe you are sitting here thinking there is not much hope, that so much needs to be done, and that you are the only one to accomplish the task. Maybe you are sitting here thinking that you are unable to accomplish the task based on your skills, your worth, and your vision.

In those moments when you think it is impossible, those are the moments God is calling out to you saying “cast your net on the other side.”

Who are you in God’s Eyes…
Our lives and the life of the Church have many different struggles, bumps, and stops. Our natural tendency is to focus on the one problem, that blinds our focus on one thing without seeing our true image as son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father, and friend. Without realizing by the end, the focus of our image is nothing but dead a stem of a flower without any petals.

However, when we put our struggles, challenges, wants, desires into a new perspective of sacrificial love, we realize what God has seen from the very beginning. A beautiful flower. Life may show you the stem, but God shows you the fullness of your life.

You never know what God is doing in your life, so be brave in how you communicate with him. Allow hope and sacrifice to lead your journey.

This was the true message that reminded me that our Church is alive, and our true hope is in Christ through Mary. That could not have been made clearer as Bishop Milan Lach, SJ closed out his homily with the following words: ” So dear brothers and sisters, we are here. Don’t worry, Jesus Christ is with us. Don’t worry about our future of our Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States. Don’t worry. God is with us! Glory to Jesus Christ!”

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