By Catherine Fournier
In my last article for The Interim, I mused about how foreign the idea of pilgrimage is to the North American mind. We want to get there, and the sooner the better. Patience just isn’t a cultural trait on this continent.
Over the years though, the pro-life movement has learned that their battle will not be won overnight. The hearts, minds and laws of the land need to change – always a slow process.
As I recounted in July, Andrew is also learning. Reaching Vancouver will require spiritual, personal change – also a slow process. Part of that change is developing patience and appreciation for the nature of a pilgrimage. He’s also learning the critical difference between self-confidence and arrogance, determination and stubbornness, opinion and tact. In short, he’s been growing up.
Growth and maturity usually follow social blunders, mistakes in planning, or careless forgetfulness. We all remember those moments in our own youth, and it’s been interesting (and as his parents, excruciatingly embarrassing or infuriating at times) to witness him going through them. We try to keep the larger picture in mind though: a young man is doing a ridiculously hard thing to save lives, hearts and minds. We pray that others remember too, as he continues to grow and learn with accompanying blunders and mistakes.
After all that, where is Andrew now? As of 15 September, patience, perseverance and renewed energy from a good rest and healthier feet has taken him from Newcastle on Lake Ontario to Sault Ste. Marie between Lake Huron and Lake Superior.
Andrew’s trip through Ontario yielded some real blessings and happy occasions. He has fond memories of his stay in the Newmarket area. A short detour to CFB Borden in July (and an understanding duty officer) allowed Andrew a surprise visit with his brother Matthew, at cadet music camp there. Billeting at CatholicLand camp a few days later gave Andrew the opportunity to witness to the campers and spend a few days giving interviews in nearby Barrie. And, best of all, an encounter in Peterborough led to Andrew’s Pilgrimage for Life becoming Andrew and Caleb’s Pilgrimage for Life.
After much prayer and discernment, 19-year-old Caleb Allard quit his summer job (earning funds to attend university in the fall) and joined Andrew. Caleb walked with Andrew for nearly two months, from Southern Ontario to Sudbury. Andrew’s back-country and camping experience proved invaluable all along Georgian Bay where billets were few and far between. Andrew and Caleb spent nearly a week in Sudbury doing media interviews and public speaking, before Caleb returned to Peterborough and Andrew “turned left” and headed along the north shore of Lake Huron, Georgian Bay.
Another idea that we “New Worlders” find hard to grasp is that of spiritual warfare. Of any spirituality actually. We believe what we see, and – sometimes – what we feel. Everything else seems, well, a little far fetched.
So, has Andrew had so much trouble getting through Ontario because he’s a headstrong, overly-confident young man? Yes. Has he encountered one problem and setback after another because most of the country’s abortions take place in this province and the powers of evil see his “Pilgrimage for Life” as a threat? Again, Yes.
A Madonna House priest friend of ours (who we’ve named our sixth child for, a fact we all credit for the child’s intelligence and accident-prone nature) has asserted for years that living faithfully makes one a prime target for the Evil One’s attention. “Good for you,” he adds.
I’ve always shrugged off his warnings. They were possibly true but unlikely to change our plans, so why give it much thought? For some reason though, his comments that the Evil One is harassing Andrew because Ontario has so many abortions is harder to ignore.
If the effect is to make Andrew discouraged and possibly tempt him to give up the Pilgrimage for Life, then what else can it be called but spiritual warfare? Every single day there’s been some kind of irritation, annoyance, or serious complication. His feet, the weather, hunger, a lack of money, difficulty finding billeters (and God shower blessings on those who do open their homes and refrigerators to Andrew!) hostile passersby, and serious bouts of loneliness and depression are just some of the challenges Andrew has faced.
Prayers, perseverance and more prayers are the best defense against this kind of aggression and I’d like to thank everyone who is praying for Andrew and for our family. Your prayers are having an effect. Peter and I also remind each other that once through Ontario, Manitoba’s bound to be better. (This may be wishful thinking, but since Peter’s Ukrainian grandparents homesteaded in Manitoba, he’s convinced of it.)
As summer drew to a close, it became increasingly obvious that Andrew probably won’t reach Vancouver by November. He will over-winter somewhere, continue public speaking and fund-raising, and start again in March 2001. The Pilgrimage for Life will continue. Again, we thank everyone for the phone calls, letters and photographs sending prayers and good wishes our way. We appreciate your help and contributions to the Pilgrimage more than we can say. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.