Take a Pilgrimage...Into Your Past

In the last blog post, I wrote about the friendship between Catherine Doherty and Dorothy Day.  They prayed for one another and visited on occasion, but the “maintenance” of their friendship took place in the letters they exchanged throughout the years.

Below is an excerpt of a letter from Catherine to Dorothy.  In it Catherine describes a beautiful way of praying.  Catherine was known for bringing Russian Orthodox traditions to the west and “translating” them for Catholics in North America, who she felt were spiritually hungry but lacking in the deep spiritual practices she had experienced growing up in Russia.  In the passage below, Catherine writes about taking “pilgrimages” into her past and visiting the “shrines” she found there:  the graces, gifts, sorrows and joys that she had experienced throughout her life.  In her book Poustinia, Catherine wrote that Russians were serious about pilgrimage – they traipsed all over the huge country – pilgrimage was a way of life.  But even the most seasoned religious traveler discovered that in the end, to be a pilgrim means to journey within.

I invite you to reflect on Catherine’s words and consider praying this way, too.  Which shrines of your past should be revisited – what joys and sorrows?  Can you look back and recognize God’s presence in your life in the people, places and events that shaped you? 

“It has been now over a month that a great desire to write to you has come to my heart.  I have been making, as you know, ‘pilgrimages’ into my distant and not so distant yesterdays, stopping now here, now there, to render thanks to the Lord of Life, for this special grace or that, for this wonderful gift or sorrow and for that infinite moment of joy.  Short as my life is, as any human life is, there are, strange to say, many a shrine in it before which, as is the custom of my people, I can bow low from the waist, touching the earth with my hands, and singing alleluias in my heart for each….  Amongst the memories of my yesterdays is a shrine that I reached into today, at which, in a manner of speaking, I still worship.  Long ago and far away I arose in search of the Lord….  [O]ut of nowhere, you came, and hand in hand, we walked together.”

You can read the full text of Catherine’s letter to Dorothy in an article about the friendship between Catherine and Dorothy, written by Fr. Bob Wild, the postulator for Catherine’s cause for canonization. 

Fr. Wild has also written a book assembling the letters of Catherine and Dorothy entitled “Comrades Stumbling Along:  The Friendship of Catherine de Hueck Doherty and Dorothy Day as Revealed Through Their Letters.”

Catherine Doherty and Dorothy Day, 1957

Catherine Doherty and Dorothy Day, 1957