• Monica Smit

In the shoes of a pilgrim; 2019 Cabrini Pilgrimage, Denver

I love pilgrimages. You are guaranteed to finish them a better person, not only faithfully but physically and mentally as well. I have a talent for filming and editing, so I believe it’s my duty to put that into action. So…here I am in Denver filming another pilgrimage in hopes of gaining graces and answers.

The first 2 hours are always so blissful. The sun is beaming on your back, you’re linking eyes with new people, you’re singing with conviction and smiling till your face hurts. After those initial hours pass, reality hits you with full-force. Your hip and calve muscles start aching and you think to yourself…“really, you’re doing this again! Don’t you remember last time?”, “yes, I remember…but what would a pilgrimage be without pain?”, “oh yeah, that’s true…ok buckle-up and get ready for it then”.

This is my 7thpilgrimage so I have some authority to comment on them. I’ll begin by pointing out how beautiful the St Isidore Church in Denver is and how full-of-energy and life the priests there are. Many visitors have commented that this church is the most impressive SSPX church in The United States.

The first half of day 1 is boring in some respects. It’s mostly highway walking until after lunch when we start to process through downtown Denver. I’ve been on pilgrimages that go through populated areas, but never a metropolitan like this. There was traffic zooming by, people sitting in restaurants staring at us with amusement and wonder. We had lots of positive feedback and the exposure this procession gives to Mother Cabrini and catholic Tradition is intense. People often stop to ask who we are and what we are doing. We are instructed to say something like, “We are Catholics on a pilgrimage to the Mother Cabrini Shrine”.We also enjoyed mentioning the huge distance we are covering. Many pilgrims and priests engage with curious on-lookers and offer them rosaries. I’ve never been on a pilgrimage where we give out free rosaries. I would encourage any pilgrimage to adopt this into their routine. Plastic rosaries are inexpensive, but their effect could be life-changing. I personally know of miraculous conversions that happened because of one rosary.

After the excitement of the city, we continued to process through suburban areas where we met many more curious people. The songs, prayers and meditations are organised months in advance ensuring that pilgrims are given enough ‘nourishment’ while they walk. Priests are available most of the time for confessions and spiritual direction. There was hardly a dull moment.

The food and water is organised to perfection. You don’t need to carry your own water because there are hydration stations set up every 10-20 minutes. Every break has an abundance of fruit, water, energy drinks and bars.

The accommodation for the night is the floor of a Baptist church hall. If you want to be a very devoted pilgrim, I think it’s best to stay there. However, if you want a shower and bed you can always book a motel close by. No one would judge you for doing that, well I hope not because that’s what I did :-)

The second day is less miles but there is some elevation at the end when climbing up to the shrine. You can see the Rocky Mountain foothills in the distance all day and you know the end is drawing near. At one point you can see the entire Denver downtown area and you see exactly where you walked from. It makes you proud and shocked to see how far your feet have taken you.

The last mile is a consistent incline which slows some pilgrims down, while others are energised by the idea of getting to the end. After arriving, we do the stations of the cross. Tourists are all around us and some even joined in…what a beautiful experience. After 50 miles of endurance, this is your reward. We then shuttle back to St Isidore church to attend mass, dinner and farewells.

Things that stood-out to me about this pilgrimage was the energy and devotion of our priests. Father Robinson is extremely well-spoken and knowledgeable. Father Boyle is full of life, running back and forth encouraging and motivating us. We also had Father Brueggemann, Father Fabula, Father Torzala and Father McManus with us.

Here are some things to consider; It’s basically all concrete walking which can be harder on the feet. Jogging intermediately to cross big intersections and the incline at the end can be very challenging for some pilgrims. Pain is a necessary part of a pilgrimage, but it’s prudent to be prepared. If you stay the night at the church hall, there is no shower so make sure you bring wet wipes and perhaps a yoga mat or blow up mattress for sleeping.

I will be producing some videos about this pilgrimage in the future, so be sure to subscribe to my email list at www.monicasmit.com.

Check out the photo album here - https://www.monicasmit.com/cabrini-pilgrimage

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