By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
Pick a crisis… Any crisis…
The summer of 2021 has been filled with options for us to choose from when it comes to crisis. Our awareness of moments which fall under the category of crisis is directly proportional to how much time we spend being connected to the world outside our own sphere of perceived safety.
Yet even as we step outside our homes in Southwestern Ontario we breathe in the smokey air resulting from the forest fires which are having such a devastating impact in other parts of our province and our country.
We live in times of crisis when we are compelled to face moments filled with a heightened level of trouble,danger or difficulty. For many there is a sense that we are coming out of a time of a pandemic crisis and that we will soon be able to view “Covid Time” through a rear-view mirror. Those who have this point of view have not spent any time in a hospital setting, where the conversation with health care workers reflects the challenge of playing catchup with the thousands of surgeries and routine medical exam procedures which have been cancelled or postponed during the last year. The resulting impact on the health and well-being of many individuals by not receiving timely diagnostic care has yet to fully be realized.
It is a great challenge when we raise our vision to a wider field and look out into our own communities, our province, our nation, or our world. The turmoil that we see all around us, may fittingly be identified as defining a time of crisis.
Each facet of that global turmoil generates its own response. We may not be able to save the world, but we may, in our own way, influence the way in which the fire spark which lights the tinder of a crisis nearest to us, may be extinguished by our words or actions.
I write this article on the eve of the Feast of Saint James the Apostle. His story is closely linked with those who have experienced the Camino, which is marked by various medieval pilgrimage routes stretching across the map of Europe. It has been almost twenty years since I began to walk the Camino Frances, which goes from the border of France and Spain to the place which (by tradition) is the final resting place of the remains of Saint James. The Cathedral in Santiago de Compestela is the destination for all those who commit themselves to the experience of walking the Camino.
One of the key lessons that I learned from those days, which is indelibly etched into my heart and soul, is the fact that at the end of the journey, during the Mass of the Pilgrims, in the Cathedral, the names of the places where individuals began their journey are named. This is not done in a judgmental way, as if a greater distance was to be identified as being any better than any other. Each person’s pilgrimage was honoured on its own. The personal experience of the pilgrim was valued on its own. Each pilgrim was respected on their own.
The Camino is not an easy thing. Blisters, torrential rain, boiling sun (did I mention the blisters?), varying terrain and the sheer distance, have the potential to generate moments of crisis as the pilgrim simply seeks to put one foot in front of the other.
Yet as much as the pilgrimage is an individual experience, there is also a sense in which the Camino is not experienced in solitude. Pilgrims journey in the company of those who represent a variety of nationalities, speak a variety of languages and come from a variety of life experiences. In the midst of all those factors which could easily be seen as elements of division, pilgrims move forward together, offering words of encouragement where needed, practical assistance when required and the gift of fellowship and solidarity, knowing that all have a shared goal at the end of the journey.
The crisis you are dealing with in your life is yours to face. The blessing of our faith is that we do not face the crisis of daily life alone. The promise of Jesus is that He shares our life's journey with all of its challenges, crises and joys. The reality of being part of a community of faith is that the living presence of our Lord in our lives may be experienced through the kindness, caring, compassionate presence of others who are on their own life journey.
In the company of others, especially those who are part of the community of faith, facing the bigger issues, the greater challenges, the daunting issues of our day, has the potential of being an lighter burden than we could have ever asked or imagined, especially when we realize that we do not have to face those crises alone.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.