By Christopher Wells
“We have come here as children to meet our Mother, and to acknowledge that we are all brothers and sisters”, Pope Francis said at the Marian Shrine at Şumuleu Ciuc. “Shrines”, he explained, “are like ‘sacraments’ of a Church that is a field hospital: they keep alive the memory of God’s faithful people who, in the midst of tribulation, continue to seek the source of living water that renews our hope”.
The Shrine at Şumuleu Ciuc is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in eastern Europe. Each year, tens of thousands of pilgrims, many from Hungary, travel to the shrine on the Saturday before Pentecost to commemorate a 16th century victory over a Protestant force that had been sent to convert them.
We are pilgrims
In his homily, Pope Francis said, “We have come here for a reason: we are pilgrims”; and he reflected on what it means to go on pilgrimage.
Going on pilgrimage: Looking to past, present, and future
“To go on pilgrimage”, he said, “is to realize that we are in a way returning home as a people”. Alluding to the history of the shrine, the Pope said, “Complicated and sorrow-filled situations from the past must not be forgotten or denied, yet neither must they be an obstacle or an excuse standing in the way of our desire to live together as brothers and sisters”.
Going on pilgrimage, he continued, involves feeling “called and compelled to journey together, asking the Lord for the grace to change past and present resentments and mistrust into new opportunities for fellowship”.
Finally, he said, “To go on pilgrimage is to look not so much at what might have been (and wasn’t), but at everything that awaits us and cannot be put off much longer”. It means building a future that includes everyone. This, the Pope said, “requires a certain skill, the art of weaving the threads of the future”. That, he said, “is why we are here today, to say together, ‘Mother, teach us to weave the future’”.
Let us journey together
Recalling the Annunciation, Pope Francis invoked the image of Mary saying ‘yes’ to the message of an angel. “Such is the mystery of God’s election”, he said. “He looks to the lowly and confounds the powerful; he encourages and inspires us to say ‘Yes’, like Mary, and to set out on the paths of reconciliation”.
So, he concluded, “let us journey, and let us journey together”.