Two sisters hiked 93 miles to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in honor of the 150th anniversary of their religious order's founding.
Two sisters left Lisbon, Portugal, on July 21 with a layman, Francisco Costa. They covered the 93 miles that separated them from the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in five days.
In 2021, walking is cool only if you have the right leggings, a smart watch that measures your heartbeat and the calories you’ve burned, and a colored terrycloth sweatband. Teresa Nogueira and Conceição Pereira, walking with stick in hand and backpack on their shoulders, have a much healthier goal—not only for the body, but also for the soul.
That’s why, in addition to energy bars and Gatorade, the two religious sisters brought with them something really essential: a rosary. That’s the truly unfailing spiritual emergency kit (although it’s helpful to carry it along with cold spray and bandages, in case of a sprained ankle!).
On their community’s Facebook account you can see them walking and praying. The beauty of the Rosary is that, even if you sweat a little, you advance miles in faith (even though your Fitbit won’t register it)!
The real journey
Making a pilgrimage is not just about walking, in the literal sense of putting one foot in front of the other. It’s about training your heart to be grateful for the beauty that surrounds you; it means getting used to being tired but with your gaze fixed on the goal. It’s about giving time and sweat for something transcendent, not just for ourselves and to appear more fit.
Going on a pilgrimage is not just wandering. Although the geographical destination may not be defined or we may not reach it, what pilgrims seek is something they already have in their heart. A pilgrimage is never just a journey to someone, but with someone. We only have to recognize Him as He walks beside us, as at Emmaus.
That’s why, even in our fast-paced 2021, it still makes sense to slow down and embark on foot as medieval pilgrims did. There’s something that only the journey can give, even today.
God is in the slowness
We need to return to that slow time, in which it’s possible to pay attention to the little things that don’t make noise. Like that “gentle wind” of which the Scriptures speak, which is the voice of God that calls and soothes our soul … just like the cool breeze that comes up and brushes your face as you walk.
These two sisters couldn’t have given a more beautiful lesson than a pilgrimage in stages. They remind young people to go “slow” and perhaps receive a call that has their name: their vocation.
You leave to say thank you, you come back even more grateful
A pilgrimage is much more than just an “experience.” It’s something that makes tangible and clearer the difficult journey of life. Among dusty roads, hot sun, and tight shoes, we realize that we’re not alone. The goal is waiting for us and it is real, but we cannot take shortcuts.
We leave to say thank you, like these two nuns who wanted to show their gratitude for the 150 years of the foundation of their order by walking 150 km (93 miles). But we arrive even more grateful for all that has been given and revealed to us along the way.
We leave with a petition, like Teresa and Conceição who prayed for new vocations. But when we see the goal in the distance getting closer and closer, we realize that whatever happens, that effort was worth it. Someone will take it and know how to make our sacrifice yield a hundredfold, as they did the joy in our hearts along the way.
We’ll encounter potholes, detours, and blisters, but also fresh water, laughter, and friends. And it will be good to be all together at the finish line of life.