To Be A Pilgrim: Walking with Your Neighbour


The word “pilgrim” has a lot of resonance for me.  It is a word that evokes a journey made by someone with someone else and towards something that is not really known.  We are very much in the unknown where we put ourselves squarely in God’s hands.

It was not until the Universal Apostolic Preferences were made known that I began to use the word pilgrim.  I see that in my previous experiences, even if I did not use the word pilgrim, the idea was there.

The simple fact of walking alongside the refugee, of being present, of going out to meet him or her, was a concrete representation of this idea of pilgrims.

I say “simply walking alongside”.  Simple, yes; easy, no.  There is nothing easy about walking alongside a person who has been tortured; someone who has witnessed the murder of his brother; someone who has been a victim of violence from a street gang.

I cannot and will never be able to heal that person.  I won’t even try.  But I can be by his side; I can show him compassion.  Isn’t that where we are called as followers of Jesus, to be present, to walk with her with all her wounds?

Isn’t that the difference between Jesuit works and government-funded refugee aid offices?  Are we not there to help that person embrace his or her own suffering, not to deny it, to say it as it is, to describe it, not to fear it, not to neglect it, not to ignore it?  His suffering is there, it is real.  And isn’t that where we are going to meet the resurrection?

I am convinced that it is only by embracing our own suffering and that of our neighbor, as pilgrims, that we will be able to live this new life in the manner of Jesus.

Jesus embraced his own suffering and that of others.  We are witnesses to the life that this has generated.

Norbert Piché is the Directeur national Service jésuite des réfugiés - Country Director Jesuit Refugee Service – Canada

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 02:07h, 11 January Reply

    Thank you Norbert!

  • Paul Baker
    Posted at 11:06h, 11 January Reply

    Thanks Norbert. I am reminded that even in our most difficult encounters with others we can be there for them by our gift of presence and compassion.

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 08:03h, 19 January Reply

    Your piece awakened in me sincere pause for reflection. Our material possessions will hardly rate a mention when we pass away. What will be remembered with sincere affection will be any little kindness we have shown our neighbour (and Jesus has answered for us the question, “Who is my neighbour?”). When my mother died more than three decades ago, acquaintances told me of her generosity towards them – acts of kindness of which I had been totally unaware because she never spoke of them – or even just an attentive ear and a comforting word in response to the difficulties they were facing. She made a quiet but very positive difference in the lives of those she encountered in her daily interactions. Lord, help me realize how I too can truly love my neighbour as myself.

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