J2A Greece Pilgrimage 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"The story that we bring back from our journeys is the boon. It is the gift of grace that was passed to us in the heart of our journey."

To be perfectly honest, it is very difficult for me to experience my own personal pilgrimage while serving as the leader of the group. I do my best to focus attention on the daily devotions but find myself immediately distracted by planning the next activity or dealing with the schedule for the day.

In between the multitudes of details that unfold, when I get a moment alone, I pray that God will shine a light on my path and direct me towards some kind of personal discovery or transformation. As the pilgrimage progresses I wait to experience something.

In Delphi, I sat at the Temple of Apollo and watched each of our pilgrims take a turn walking alone to the entrance, each person reverently offering his or her question or prayer. I was witnessing something incredibly powerful, examples of immense courage and personal growth, and all of a sudden I found myself crying, wiping away the tears with my already damp handkerchief.

The overwhelming wave of emotion surprised me, and I knew I had arrived. What a gift we gave to each other, supporting one another along the pilgrim's way. I don't know what was asked or prayed for, but I do know we were there together, and that bond will be with us forever.

Rob Burlington

"How will you remember to remember when you return home?" -Phil Cousineau

When I return home there are going to be temptations and distractions leading me away from my experience in Greece, and it would seem as if I would forget, but I will never forget. Memories are powerful, and the ones from Greece are plentiful and moving. Distinct memories include the Temple of Apollo where we had to ask God an important question. While standing in front of that temple you could feel the forces of God, how God was trying to listen to you. Even though the answer to your question may not appear quickly, it will in time in a certain way. This memory will always be a part of me.

Breathtaking moments, such as walking through the monasteries secluded on mountaintops are impossible to forget. Because these memories are imprinted in your mind forever, it is easy "to remember to remember." Greece is a beautiful place and consumes your whole being, your spiritual and daily life, and you feel as if you are part of God's many kingdoms. How will I remember to remember when I return home?..easy..I will never forget this amazing experience in an amazing country, with my friends, an amazing group of pilgrims.

-Amelia Baker

Monday, June 23, 2008

There is a great moment, when you see, however distant, the goal of your wandering.

Over the past couple of days, the idea of dedication has stood out to me. As I walked through the monastery museum in Patmos on Friday a design in one of the old books stood out to me. I recognized it but not as a Greek symbol.

"Phil... this looks a lot like a Celtic Knot."

"It might be..."

And he proceeded to tell me the story of the lives of ancient monks. Each monk would specialize in one thing. One monk would be amazing at applying gold leaf; another would focus on calligraphy. Despite being held inside, to this day, impenetrable walls, there was a sense of security. Everyone knew what they were good at and followed that path from the age of fifteen or sixteen, (the age of the majority of our group), until they died.

But the story of the monks doesn't end there. A monk would spend a lifetime working on one book. One. And when that book, filled with the monk's life work, was finished he would be asked to take a pilgrimage to deliver that book to another monastery. A monk could be asked to travel to some distant city in Europe. It was highly probable that the book I was looking at had been brought from somewhere in Ireland and had been copied and then carried to this monastery in the far reaches of the Aegean Sea.

I tell this story because of the depiction of dedication.

Next our travels led us to Delphi. On the bus ride there I read a passage in Phil's book about a woman who called herself Peace Pilgrim. She travelled for nearly thirty years with only her message of peace. Pure dedication. At Delphi we were invited to present a question to the site of the Oracle. I remember reading a book of seers, fortunetellers, and prophets when I was in fourth grade, (the Oracle of Delphi was mentioned in the book of course). While my librarian disregarded the ancient prophets' accuracy, I was entranced with the idea of these people with this special gift. I remember telling my mom back then that when I went to Greece I had to go see Delphi. And here I was.

I was originally very agitated with the whole question thing. I loved the idea, but I had no clue what to ask. I was at a complete loss. After a troubling day of heat rash and a long bus ride, I was not too happy or spiritually in tune. By the evening I managed to find some peace of mind. The question would come to me during our time of silence, I thought, and I went to sleep.

I woke up Sunday morning with the question bursting from my rested head. "What should I do with my life? What should my dedication be?" It's a fairly open question. I wasn't exactly looking for a profession, but more of a purpose. The monks inspired me. Peace Pilgrim inspired me. No, I'm not planning on entering a convent or traveling for the rest of my life with no home. But, this was definitely the question I was dying to ask.

As the All Saints' pilgrims took turns going up to the entrance of the temple to present our questions, the direct sun was swelteringly hot. There was no shade to be had. Despite the peace our silent walk brought me earlier that morning, I was starting to get agitated. When my turn came, I walked up to the six columns that remain of the temple. As I looked up at them and, like in a surreal dream-sequence of a movie, they seemed to grow, the harsh stone contrasting with the brilliantly bright blue sky. I closed my eyes, starting my prayer. Suddenly, a breeze came straight through the entrance and provided the first bit of relief from the heat I'd had that morning. I went on to ask my question. I whispered it to the Oracle, to God, to myself, and to the land.

There was perfect stillness in my mind and all around me.

"You'll find it. It'll come to you."

And that was all I needed.

Stay open.

Listen for God's answer.


I will.

Alice Berry

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What is the question you bring? Why did you come so far?

Delphi, this ancient city, really helps put everything in perspective. In ancient times kings and peasants alike traveled here, thinking it to be the center of the world. Almost all who travelled here came with life changing questions to present to the oracle in The Temple of Apollo. The myriad of questions presented were questions of war, love, commerce, wisdom, and really anything that one longed to know. That being said, all of us on this pilgrimage were asked months ago to think of one question we longed to ask. I was perplexed by this. Thinking of that one question was a task that I struggled with off and on until the very moment I stood in front of The Temple of Apollo. Months of consulting myself and friends had brought me to this one point. When we arrived in front of the ruins of the temple I immediately took to my sketchbook, drawing this great monument, still considering what my question would be. Light was about me, the sun was shining down upon the great mountain, and my creative fires were ignited as I sat and tried to reason what my question was. Finally in a creative spark my question was formed and I wrote this:

This place, In the center of the mortal earth, pierces the sky
It truly is a connection of worlds
These great pillars dedicated to Apollo, god of the sun, creativity, and reason, still stand tall
Surviving the battle with time they live on as an inspiration
The atmosphere forms a vivid revelation of creativity and soul

Stepping away from the temple after standing in silence I felt like I had acquired an answer to my question, and I had figured it out for myself. With this sense of accomplishment I shall descend down the mountain ready to take life head on.

Alexander Hoare

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"What is your labyrinth? If you don't name it, it will have power over you for your whole life."

"And God shall wipe away all the tears from your eyes."

As parents, friends, and extended family reading this blog I am sure you are all probably pretty jealous of our trip at this point. After reading yesterday's blog and hearing of our relaxing day at the beach and the pool you might also be thinking to yourself "Man, I need to go on one of the these pilgrimage things." Yes, yesterday was a time of relaxation, prayer and reflection where we could soak in our gorgeous surroundings. However, today was a new day where we challenged ourselves in our minds, body and spirit. This morning, as a part a part of our daily routine, we all scrambled in the lobby to listen to the inspiring words of Phil Cousineau who talked about how our lives are labyrinths. I say scrambled because we hit some of the minor bumps in the road that a pilgrim would hit. For example, our 8 o'clock wake up calls didn't go off and finally when we were all in the lobby the girls had to make sure they had skirts that were the appropriate length. There were numerous outfit changes, but Elizabeth holds the record of having to change in the lobby bathroom 3 times. When we were finally settled, we were handed three pieces of paper, one of them having a picture of of a labyrinth (which looked somewhat like a maze) with a famous creature in Greek mythology, the minotaur, located in the middle. Phil described how our lives are like labyrinths. The labyrinth represents the confusion and struggle in your life as you are striving towards your ultimate goal which is to break through the confusion, and tackle the minotaur who is trying to distract you from attaining this goal. As the title of this blog says "if you don't name [your labyrinth], it will have power over you for the rest of your life." Some examples Phil mentioned of what our labyrinths could be were "my struggle with my faith, insecurities, doubt, parents, friends, etc." When Phil asked the group to name some of our personal labyrinths Rob told the group that recently he has been nervous about trying to find a new job and about starting a new chapter of his life (and yes...that was a shoutout from Rob letting anyone know that if you hear of anyone looking for a pretty much awesome guy to work in your school administration system just give him a call). However, as difficult as it may seem to think of our lives as labyrinths Phil also left us with a message of hope by telling us about our "clew." A clew (which is where we get our english word clue) is the thing that is inspiring you to get through your labyrinths. It is the golden thread; what is holding you down/grounding you throughout your life. For many of us, we are finding our "clews" on this trip by learning more about our faiths and our relationships with God.

Phil's talk lead us perfectly into the days activities. As a group, we travelled by bus to to the the monastery of St. John where we learned about John's revelation. We were able to see the exact indentation in the rock where it is said that when John had his revelation he fell over and knocked his head on the rock. John (Herring) told us about how the Book of Revelation is sometimes taken as a dark and depressing message because of the different language. But, just like in our labyrinths, he said that the book is really a message of hope that God will always be here for us.

After the visit to the monastery, Rob surprised us with a boat ride to one of the most beautiful beaches on Patmos. Unfortunately the winds were to strong to dock at the beach, so instead we found another spot (a little rockier) but nevertheless we all jumped into the cold water and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.

Carolyn Harris

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Knock Knock.....Answer It"

A very tired group of pilgrims arrived at breakfast this morning. After a good traditional Greek breakfast we had quiet reflection time. We sat outside with Phil Cousineau under the hot Greek sun and had a spiritual inspirational talk about answering the knock on the door. The knock on the door to wake up with your spirituality. We talked about the Book of Revelation and how St. John wrote with such powerful imagery--a wonderful work of art. Phil talked about how much of the imagery in Revelation is like a riddle. Then he asked us a couple of ancient riddles. Jack and Cameron solved the riddles and won one of his books. The riddle's answers were dream and time which connected to waking up to become more faithful in your spirituality.

The rest of the day we had free time and a lot of us spent quiet time to think about all the deep questions asked relating to our life. We went to the pool and the beach and had time to walk around and shop. It was a nice day to relax and contemplate our life and why we had chosen to come on this pilgrimage to Greece. It is definitely a once in a lifetime experience here to learn about Paul and John and walk where they walked and think where they thought. It is a moving feeling and it makes you feel important. We are all having a great time bonding with each other. Greece is so beautiful and this is an amazing trip.

Eleanor Woodward