September 14, 2014

Pilgrim George

In the seventies, as a boy, I heard that a pilgrim from Pennsylvania had walked through California.  Many of my friends from Santa Cruz went to meet him.  They were young adults and what he witnessed to them changed their lives.

He told them how he made God the center of his life and allowed himself to be completely vulnerable to the Lord in prayer.  He claimed that living this way was the source of an abiding peace and that anyone who would live their lives loving God could know this peace too, not only in this life but also in the life to come.

Just by walking by foot where he believed God called him to walk, Pilgrim George helped us believe that God truly loves us and that loving God is the secret of happiness - this is a truth strong enough to build a whole life on.  As a result, some of my friends discovered the joy of doing something beautiful for the Lord with their lives.  Their response, in turn, had a ripple effect throughout our whole community.

Years later, when I was a student in Rome, some Jesuit priests had invited me to dinner and they began to talk about a foot pilgrim who was walking through India.  After a few questions, I learned it was the same pilgrim George who had influenced so many of my friends during my youth.  It was obvious that his witness to God's love was compelling to them as well.  So again, he helped me think about how I was living and how I ought to respond to the goodness of God.  

In these ways, Pilgrim George, even though I never met him, became an important influence on me, personally.   I have heard he had this impact on many other men and women around the world -- and in a world that has become increasingly hostile to God, this is something remarkable.

After over forty years of being a foot pilgrim, he is now devoting himself as a poustinik - a life of silence, solitude and contemplation, but also witness and service.  Click here to watch an interview he gave to Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Ohio.