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From September 21 through October 5, I journeyed with a group of ten on a pilgrimage to Mt. Athos. There are many published accounts by pilgrims, though nothing I’ve seen does full justice to the experience itself. This article is a reflection on one aspect of my journey – an aspect that was foremost in my mind. May God bless the reader.
“I felt like I was eating in the Gulag.” We had just completed day one on our Mt. Athos pilgrimage and my son (30 years old) had expressed my thoughts precisely. It is not an accident that in English, a place for a life of repentance would accurately be named a “penitentiary.” There is a story from the French Revolution of a mob that assaulted the gates of a Carthusian monastery, announcing to the monks, “You’re free! You’re free!” The monks blinked and closed the gates back. The difficulties and struggles of the monastic life are freely chosen. However, they can be rather daunting for someone who has chosen nothing more than to visit for a short time.
Man - Man - Shape - Bit - Week
I am no longer a young man. I am also not a man in “good shape.” Though I walk a bit every week, I am guilty of too many hours in a chair and a lifestyle shaped more by heart medications than by exercise. I like to eat, and enjoy the variety of foods available in our culture. Though I keep the fasts, like most, I find ways to make a fasting day quite palatable. These are not good preparations for a monastic pilgrimage.
A common question prior to my trip was, “What do you hope to get from your pilgrimage?” I had no particular answer. I wanted to be open to whatever came my way. In the back of my mind was...
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