The dust on my feet
The road we traveled was not paved. It was not fertile. It was clear and even flat for a while. It was bordered by rough, untamed terrain and wild fauna on both sides. Birds could be heard and a few small animals rustling in the patches of brush along the way.
With every step, I imagined what this path would have looked like for the Padres traveling between missions. Perhaps it might have been wide from the supply wagons taking and returning with commodities for the Spanish military and trade. Other stretches may have only been a footpath. In the least traveled areas, I'm sure they had to push back brush and even change their route when natured made it difficult.
Here I am, walking the same path in pilgrimage from one mission to the next. Here I am, wondering what they must have thought about as they walked. I pray the same rosary prayers they prayed.
As I watch my dusty hiking shoes striking the dirt, I consider how comfortable my feet are compared to the ancient, open sandals the Padres wore 200 years ago. Where they had very little promised other than hardship, pain, and difficulty, I have all sorts of hiking gear, sunscreen, snacks, and 1.5 liters of water for my travels. Where they had nature to keep them company, I have fellow pilgrims to visit with and Spotify for when I needed motivation. Where they had to worry about wild carnivores, I have half-ton machines to watch out for when we walk along roads and streets. Such a difference in reality but no less a journey seeking God. I feel a pull, a yearning, for the end of a long journey and a need to feel the Lord's presence. I am a pilgrim in my own space and time just as those who came before me were pilgrims in their space and time.
Somehow, I feel closer to them with each step, with each prayer. I seek to feel their presence, to feel their total abandonment to God's grace and plan for their lives.
Saint Junipero Serra, pray for us.
The restored Mission at La Purisima. The dusty roads are the exact paths the Padres and CA Mission Walkers follow.