Wednesday, 02 January 2013 15:34
By Denise Bossert
I went on my first pilgrimage last July.
I knew that a pilgrimage was not supposed to be predictable. It’s a journey, and journeys take on a life of their own.
My daughter and I began our day with Mass at our parish. I’m usually a morning person, but I couldn’t shake the fatigue. That’s when I realized that I took my evening medicine (with its soporific side effect) instead of reaching for my over-the-counter allergy pill. Wrong medicine. Definitely the wrong medicine.
I labored through Mass, and we headed back home for some coffee before hitting the road for the Shrine at Starkenburg, Mo.
We took the scenic route - an hour on the back roads of Missouri. The scenery was beautiful, but there were few bathroom opportunities. Did I mention that I had coffee before this trip?
Finally, we made it to the shrine.
It was about 11:30 a.m., and a number of cars were parked in the lot already. It was the second Tuesday of the month, and that meant a noon Mass there.
We were going to step inside, take a few minutes to pray and then slip out before Mass. We had noticed a German shepherd on the front steps, and when we opened the chapel door, he scurried over the threshold and dashed past us. He was half-way down the aisle before I caught him by the collar and coaxed him out the doors. I was mortified. The faithful who were praying raised their heads and stared.
My daughter and I took a deep breath and finally slipped into the back row. As we prayed, the dog whined so loudly that everyone could hear it.
We prayed for our special intentions, quickly made the Sign of the Cross, and left the chapel.
There he was, waiting for us, his tail wagging joyfully. We walked to the shrine, and the dog pranced along beside us. I descended the steps and escaped the heat of the July day. The grotto was dim and cool, and I knelt to pray. My daughter stayed with our new canine companion so that he would not follow me into the holy space. The sign in front of the shrine reminded visitors to be quiet and reverent. I suspected that meant Fido was not invited inside although there was no front door to keep him from entering.
When I came out of the shrine and mounted the steps, my daughter informed me that our new friend had been nearly impossible to restrain. I told my daughter to go on ahead and pray in the shrine. Perhaps the dog would stay with me while she prayed. The dog jerked out of my hands and bounded down the steps after her.
People were parking and walking to the church in greater numbers. Once again, I wanted to announce that I did not know this dog at all. I’ve never seen him before! Honest!
We left after that. The dog stayed behind. Our last glimpse of him was from the parking lot.
Later, I took my daughter to lunch. I asked her what her favorite part of the pilgrimage was. Her face brightened.
“When the dog followed us,” she said with a smile.
I laughed. I worry too much what people think. Maybe that’s what I needed to learn. That’s the shortcoming I need to amend. Pilgrimages always teach us something about ourselves.
It doesn’t matter if others misunderstand or think they know me when they don’t. It doesn’t matter if they draw conclusions about me that are far from accurate. I worry too much what people think.
I have only to love God – with as much joy and tenacity as a stray dog for new-found friends.
On a hot July morning, God planted a dog at the shrine. He permitted that dog to enter into his holy place and make it half way to the tabernacle. He inspired that dog to descend the steps to His holy shrine.
I think He did all of this to tell me to lighten up.
I’m with my daughter. The dog following us — that was the best part.
The author blogs at catholicbygrace.blogspot.com.