Marian Helper Spring 2024

Marian Helper • Spring 2024 • 29 anyone interested in reading it, hoping it might prove beneficial to them, “however God wants to use it.” As he made his way around the globe — including the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy last fall — Anthony posted photos to his Facebook page; when possible, he paired the images with links to videos related to the pilgrimage sites. When Anthony posted pictures from his visit to Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark is thought to have landed (see Gen 8:4), he included a link to Marian Fr. Chris Alar’s YouTube video about the ark. After visiting several sites in Poland related to St. Faustina, Anthony shared those photos, accompanied by links to a few of Fr. Chris’ talks about the saint and her Diary. Anthony hopes people’s faith might be strengthened by what he shared, as his own faith was strengthened, sometimes in ways he did not expect. Subtle sanctification At his journey’s beginning, Anthony thought that his time at the holy sites would produce “a ‘Eureka!’ moment” in his spiritual life. But that moment never came. “You can’t force God to do something,” Anthony acknowledges, and God did not choose to send him sudden flashes of spiritual illumination as he walked the Camino de Santiago or visited the cave where the prophet Elijah had listened for God in the wind and the earthquake, but heard His voice in the stillness (see 1 Kgs 19:8-18). Rather, Anthony found that much of his progress in sanctity came simply through learning to endure the grind and grime of travel. He was often tired or stressed. “There were times when I wouldn’t be the most pleasant person to be around,” he admits. But as the weeks and months went by, Anthony noticed himself growing in patience and self-control. He was also repeatedly reminded to entrust himself and his travels to God, not only by the large Divine Mercy Images — with their gentle, insistent message, “Jesus, I trust in You” — that seemed to be displayed on the land of every farm he passed in the Philippines, but also in the challenges and adventures he met on the road. On a long trip like Anthony’s, “You learn to trust God, that He will take care of you.” Anthony did not get to see everything he wanted to see, but he came to have confidence that he would get to see everything God wanted him to see. And there were many times when Anthony could clearly tell how God had stepped in to help him. When Anthony arrived on the island of Patmos, he had only 10 minutes to visit the place where St. John had written the Book of Revelation. As he ran, a car pulled up beside him and the driver asked where he was going. The people in the car turned out to be fellow pilgrims trying to reach the same site, but they were lost. Anthony had the map on his phone, and they offered him a ride. With Anthony navigating, the pilgrims were able to visit the holy site and get back to the ferry in time. The Mystical Body of Christ Christians throughout the ages have compared the spiritual life with a journey, from Dante’s sobering odyssey through the afterlife to Sam and Frodo’s perilous quest to Mordor and back again. “Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven,” Holy Mother Church teaches (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2691). Perhaps no one reading this will experience something quite like Anthony Loyola’s “life-changing pilgrimage.” Still, every soldier in the Lord’s army has a long march to make. The lessons Anthony brought back with him — that salvation history is real, and the good news of that reality is to be shared; that God is trustworthy; that no member of Christ’s Body is ever truly alone; and that daily perseverance is the path to ultimate sanctification — are ones that every traveler to the heavenly homeland would do well to carry with him on the way. A view of Mount Ararat in Turkey, where Noah’s Ark landed after the Flood (see Gen 8:4). The room in Vilnius, Lithuania, where St. Faustina saw Jesus.