A road trip pilgrimage across Europe to World Youth Day in Poland may seem like a crazy idea. Perhaps you'd be right in thinking so. I never imagined it would be easy, but as I sit on the motorway at 1am, sleep deprived and wondering if we'll make the ferry, it occurs to me that I never expected hiccups so soon! As I write this we're stuck in traffic on the motorway. We're 3 miles outside Dover Port and have been on pretty much the same spot since 10.20pm. At first we thought there had been an accident, or that a barrier was being repaired. We later found out that the delays are due to tight security checks on the French borders after the recent terrorist attacks.
As I'm sitting in this car trying - and failing - to sleep, I've started reflecting a little. I began to pray to Jesus to ask Him to ensure that we actually get the ferry at 6am. Its important to trust Him and believe that He knows what He's doing - trust can be a challenge when the grumpiness sets in and defences are low. We had been planning on staying in a parish in Dover...The priests called and generously said they would wait up overnight when they heard of the delays, but their hospitality will sadly probably now go to waste.
Two thoughts have met me as I sit here in a car full of dozing pilgrims. The first thought is the old saying "if you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans". We had all been looking forward to reuniting our group for prayer, a meal and a rest but it now seems God has other plans. We just have to trust that all will be well!
The second thought I'm mulling over is that sin has a ripple effect. The horrific terrorist attacks in France haven't just affected the people of France. In much much smaller ways, they are now having a direct effect on us in the UK and on our pilgrimage. We now cannot sleep properly, we have to face rigid security checks (which is fair enough), and our hosts have lost the opportunity to meet us and practice hospitality. It's a shame, but sin does not happen in a vacuum. It affects us all, whether directly or indirectly. As St. Paul says, we are the body of Christ...if one part of the body is suffering, then we all suffer together.
As small as our sacrifices are in the grand scheme of things, it has struck me that without the sin of the attacks, our journey would have been very different. Perhaps God wants us to go another way, to meet other people...I trust that He will turn the situation to good. On a very personal level, I can say that if this Year of Mercy has taught me anything, it's that God writes straight with crooked lines. He uses the twists and turns of our lives, the unexpected u-turns and blockages, even the consequences of others' sins, to bring us to salvation. To teach us to trust Him.
The theme of this year's WYD is Mercy. We will be visiting the shrine of the Divine Mercy in Poland next week. The main tenet of devotion to the Divine Mercy is an emphasis on trust: 'Jesus I trust in You'. Or, as they say in Poland, 'Jesu Ufam Tobie!'
So now our group of pilgrims waits, prays, hopes and trusts that tomorrow's journey will lead us to our destination!
Pray for us- we'll return the favour in Poland!