By the time you receive this message, I will have boarded a plane with my husband Allen as we begin an around-the-world trip over the coming six weeks.

I am not normally one for travel, but I promised Allen that I would accompany him on one of his travels overseas, in gratitude for his years of supporting me in my ministry roles within the church. He is keen to share the world with me, and I am sure we will encounter many experiences and people.

Brendon Mannyx has accepted the invitation to write or coordinate some writers while Allen and I are on leave. I hope you enjoy his words over the coming weeks.

During the past week, a number of people from across the diocese have ‘sat at the feet’ of Fr Richard Lennan, a priest of our diocese, a theologian and ecclesiologist and a professor from Boston College. He spoke to different audiences about God, Christianity, Grace, the Church, Mission, Discipleship, Pilgrimage, Synodality and Hope. He quoted from Scripture, Scholars, and Popes.

My take-home message was one about our being pilgrims, which is relevant for me as I embark on a trip to various parts of the globe. I could go on this trip as a traveller or as a pilgrim. I am choosing to go as a pilgrim, in the realisation that in six weeks’ time I will be forever changed.

I like the words Fr Richard provided from Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith):

Religious man (sic) strives to see signs of God in the daily experiences of life, in the cycle of the seasons, in the fruitfulness of the earth and in the movement of the cosmos. God is light and he can be found also by those who seek him with a sincere heart.

Religious man is a wayfarer; he must be ready to let himself be led, to come out of himself and to find the God of perpetual surprises. This respect on God’s part for our human eyes shows us that when we draw near to God, our human lights are not dissolved in the immensity of his light, as a star is engulfed by the dawn, but shine all the more brightly the closer they approach the primordial fire, like a mirror which reflects light. (n.35)

Interestingly, on Friday, as I drove Richard to Forster, we had many deep and meaningful conversations. One such one was of an image that came to me about our sitting around a fire, the place of telling stories. In the history of our church, there have been times when the fire has burned brightly, and the warmth and comfort of such a fire has had an impact on individuals and upon society more broadly. I now have a sense of us sitting around this sacred fire, with its embers still hot and with a red glow. I wait impatiently for the fuel which we keep placing on the fire to catch alight and once more provide warmth and comfort, not only to those who gather around it, but also to those who are outside and are drawn to its warmth, strength and beauty. I also sense there are some who have fire hoses at the ready to dowse the flames or the embers, and some who wish to start their own fire.

Some of the words which I heard Fr Richard use, that resonated with me were dislocation, disruption, disturbance, struggle, wrestling and unsettled. I need to remember that God is to be found in perpetual surprises. Here are some questions he posed in a session on the Pilgrim Church:

  • Has the usual ceased to be effective?
  • Is there something we need to learn?
  • Are our God/world/others/self too small?
  • Are our attitudes/actions causing damage?
  • Are we open to the possibility of change?
  • Are we open to a future we do not control?

By the end of spending time with Richard and the different groups who gathered during the week, I was left with the image of the enormity of God, God’s love for us and all of creation, and God’s expansiveness. I found myself pondering this as scientists explore the enormity of our universe and its expansiveness. Science and faith are dealing with the very same horizons, of infinite nature and creation, and of God.

So, the song that has played itself over in my mind through the week is that of Pilgrim by Enya, Pilgrim by Enya .

Pilgrim, how you journey
On the road you chose
To find out why the winds die
And where the stories go?

All days come from one day
That much you must know
You cannot change what's over
But only where you go.

One way leads to diamonds
One way leads to gold
Another leads you only
To everything you're told.

In your heart you wonder
Which of these is true
The road that leads to nowhere
The road that leads to you.

Will you find the answer
In all you say and do?
Will you find the answer
In you?

Each heart is a pilgrim
Each one wants to know
The reason why the winds die
And where the stories go.

Pilgrim, in your journey
You may travel far
For, pilgrim, it's a long way
To find out who you are.

Pilgrim, it's a long way
To find out who you are
Pilgrim, it's a long way
To find out who you are.

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Roma Ryan / Eithne Ni Bhraonain / Nicky Ryan

Our own lives and the life of our community of faith can be captured as a three-fold dynamic of unlearning, learning and re-learning, to use more of Fr Richard’s words. It is definitely a journey of pilgrimage, and I am about to embark on a physical pilgrimage. Who knows what new questions I will return with. I won’t be the same person who is sitting here writing this message!!

I will be back at my desk at the beginning of October. Until then I bid you adieu and God’s blessings on you and our diocese.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.