We believe in undertaking a spiritual journey of faith with others, exercised in body, soul, and spirit at a point of mystical union with Christ the Servant and Perfect Pilgrim. If one were to capture the simple scriptural essence of the pillar of pilgrimage, one would not need to look further than the Road to Emmaus Appearance (Lk 24:13-35). It is after journeying with others, once we have broken bread with them, that we taste the glory of their trek. As Pilgrims of the Holy Leaf, we search for Christ in the fellowship of the pilgrimage.
In the practical-functional sense, the pillar of pilgrimage involves missionary work (especially to Japan) and serving as spiritual guides to the faithful as they undertake their own pilgrimage. Whether it’s an interior journey or traversing World Heritage pilgrimage sites such as El Camino de Santiago and others, the missional focus of the pillar of pilgrimage is to establish Romieu houses, physical as well as spiritual houses, and to form communities of pilgrims to go forth, in the apostolic spirit of the Great Commission, and guide travelers in the Way of the Pilgrim. The Pilgrim’s Way consists of many sacred ends. We may think of them as gospel ends. The overwhelming and sweet burden of our heart is to profess, proclaim, and catechize others about these holy ends in the apostolic fervor and prophetic utterances of our beloved patrons, patronesses, and holy founders.
Furthermore, we desire to live in accordance with a Franciscan spirit while living out our own unique vocation, wherein laity (married and/or single) may live together in community knitted together through a common pilgrim charism. Our intention is not to become a formally vowed religious order, nor is it to become just another secular order devoid of communal living. Rather, our intention is to be an established religious-spiritual community sent forth with an apostolic spirit to address a need and desire in the Mystical Body of Christ. Our apostolic spirit is incarnational and emanational. Its sacramental character is expressed in what we call “consecrated garb.”
In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, we read of the mark of the Tau. Tauism is not Taoism. Each’s attributes are wholly different, wholly distinct. A measure of saving power is given to Tau (and Tao for that matter), but the true saving power is in the Precious Blood of Christ. It marks us as those who have left the world and as those who have shed the old man to be consumed in the fire, wind, water, and earth of the New Creation. Pilgrims journey only because Christ emptied himself out of love for us by His Precious Blood. By partaking of His Precious Blood, we become true sons and daughters of God and participate in the life of kenosis, which involves deeply the beatitudinal practice of eirénopoios (“peace making”). To remind us of the habit of kenotic humility and peacemaking and of our responsibility to rebuild the Church, we have chosen to wear the Cross of San Damiano, which speaks to us of the Franciscan-pilgrim lifeblood worth embodying, emanating, incarnating, and communicating to the world.
In addition to the pilgrim staff and shell, we don the holy garb of the pilgrim: a capelet embroidered on the back with a Chi Rho, the evidential sign of the Church Persecuted and Triumphant; and, on the front of the capelet, there is found two shells, a universal symbol of pilgrim spirituality.
We only don our garb when we guide travelers on pilgrimage or when we instruct visitors who come to our house on matters of faith, spirituality, and so on; or at other times when we are otherwise engaged in being Christ’s disciples to the world.
Jesus, the Pilgrim Stranger of Emmaus, says to His pilgrims: “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” (Lk 24:17). “Profession” refers not only to promises made by pilgrims to devote themselves to the four pillars of pilgrimage, profession, poverty, and prayer, but also to the charism of professing the kerygma of the gospel in faith and reason, in which pilgrims are inspired to teach, instruct, and inform the world about the good news of salvation. To profess is not to preach, but in professing we rediscover the desire to live in harmony with God and others. In Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, different verbal-linguistic modes of communicating Christ’s love to the world, and of edifying and building the Church, are gleaned as the “five-fold ministry” of the Church. They can be interpreted, from higher modes (more incarnational and emanational and therefore more authoritative and more effective) to lower modes (less incarnational and emanational and therefore less authoritative and less effective), as follows:
1. preaching (divinely ordained apostolic faculty)
2. testifying (prophesying; making known the miraculous)
3. professing (evangelizing; teaching the fruits of one’s intellectual and spiritual labor in conformity with Christ)
4. catechizing (giving general and specific instruction/information in the faith)
5. sharing (spiritual conversing about the faith)
Since leading others on their sacred journey involves knowing the Incarnate Word and how He emanates from signs along the Way, pilgrims must be capable and formidable educators of, and in, the faith. During the discernment period, candidates undergo an intensive formation that incorporates aspects of the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions of religious formation. This will ensure that candidates, before being professed into the Pilgrims of the Holy Leaf Apostolate, have a spirit of “power, love, and a sound mind” (cf. 2 Tim 1:7).
For us poverty means three interrelated things: (1) simplicity (especially of dress), (2) humility, and (3) detachment from worldly things. As for simplicity of dress, pilgrims should desire dress indicating detachment from wealth and excessive style. Pilgrims are not fashionistas. As for humility, pilgrims should desire to be free from the desire of status and reputation or from being esteemed highly by others, or from the desire to be loved and consoled by others, or from anything else we are implored to depart from according to the Litany of Humility. Lastly, detachment from worldly things. The Epistle to the Colossians reads: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory” (3:2-4). Jesus does not oppose His pilgrims from donning holy garb or from having a heavenly attachment such for they serve as sacramental signs of the inner life, where God, as Dante puts it, “talketh with us in our head.” The Cross of San Damiano and consecrated garb are but true signs and/or icons (we call them sacramentals) of the individuated glory, essence, and love lavished upon pilgrims of Rome by God. Pilgrims are to be cognizant of this and be ready to give an apology to others about why such sacramentals are desirable and not “worldly.”
The apologia of Pilgrims of the Holy Leaf is the faith-filled and reasoned defense of sacramental imagination.
Prayer is the lifeblood of the spiritual life. It is the beginning and end of one’s spiritual life. Nourishing the reason for prayer is crucial to realizing how.
Pilgrims of the Holy Leaf pray in diverse ways, but our primary form is the Holy Rosary, which is prayed, at minimum, twice a day–once in the morning and once more in the evening. The Rosary, as Saint Thomas Aquinas suggests, is the essential quotidian tool of prayer. With the help and grace of Almighty God, the mysteries and prayers of the Holy Rosary keep us united to God. We also have a devotion to the Divine Master Prayer and other praises and exhortations of Saint Francis of Assisi, as well as the Litanies of Humility and Precious Blood, supplicational prayer, and other forms or types of prayer.