Saint Jean’s has been a place of pilgrimage since the relic of Saint Anne was first presented for the veneration of the faithful in 1892. A pilgrimage is a very special even in the life of a person of faith. As we prepare for the Novena of Saint Anne, it seems appropriate to devote this article to the spirituality of the pilgrimage.
One thing which we must note, even though it may seem obvious, is that when we decide to make a pilgrimage we are making a commitment to move from our home base. We may be traveling to Lourdes in France, Medugorje in Croatia, Fatima in Spain, or Saint Jean’s in New York City; but the deeper reality is that we are embarking on an interior journey.
Pilgrimages have always been connected with a deep searching within one’s soul. Sometimes, we come to a time in our lives when we recognize a restless and vague yearning. Often we don’t know what we need to do to address these spiritual longings, but we know we must do something. So, we take a leap of faith and travel to a place known for its mysticism. It is our hope that in that holy sanctuary we will be touched by God.
The Novena to Saint Ann is a time of healing and powerful intercession. These two elements, healing and intercession, are at the heart of a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey.
We often limit healing to the cure of a physical ailment. But there is much more to healing than that. Our ways of thinking can be healed, or our relationships, or our faith or the way we see ourselves and God.
Healing is a spiritual process that is a natural part of God’s interaction with the human family. We can, and should, experience many healings throughout our lifetimes. Our personal histories, where we were born, who our parents were, what our life experiences have been must be put into a creative harmony. Sometimes, we have to forgive people who have hurt us before we can move into a deeper relationship with God. Sometimes our hearts are limited in their capability to love because of the way we’ve experienced love. Perhaps we are stunted vocationally. We may have ministerial abilities but are afraid to become God’s vehicle. Perhaps to become a good mother of father something in our way of looking at ourselves has to change. This work is accomplished in us through our efforts and God’s healing.
God will do the healing, but we must invite God to begin this inner process. The time of the pilgrimage initiates that invitation. We pray not only for ourselves during this time; we pray for all who are on the pilgrimage with us. We also ask the saints to intercede for us during the time of our healing.
In July we pray to Saint Anne, the mother of Mary, in a special way. We know that as Jesus’ grandmother she lavishes her love and concern for us. What grandmother doesn’t care for her grandchildren? So we ask our spiritual grandmother to invite God to begin the healing we need.
The fact that we are ready to make a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey, pre-disposes our spirits to accept God’s healing. During the ten days of the Novena to Saint Anne we travel deep within ourselves. We pray for ourselves and for all those making the Novena. This common prayer crates a very powerful shrine for God’s presence.
I encourage each of you to make this Novena to Saint Anne with the intention of changing, and allowing yourselves to be guided and transformed by God. Let’s enter into this spiritual process assured and strengthened by the intercession of Saint Anne. Let’s be confident in the prayer of our spiritual grandmother for each of us.
Good Saint Anne, pray for us, our faith and our healing of body and spirit.