CRUZADA DE MARIA, Juan Pablo Leucke •
Last Monday, they reached the goal. On 20 January, 120 young men from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, Spain, Germany, and Portugal deepened in the Cruzada de María, on the seventh edition of a journey consisting of walking 400 kilometers and crossing the Andes Mountain Range, from the Mendoza shrine to the Bellavista Shrine (Santiago, Chile) on an adventure that lasted seventeen days. We asked one of them to share his personal testimony. –
When one must tell something like this experience, the truth is that many things come to mind and of course the heart. The first thing that I say when people ask me, is that this crusade had an impact of change and of awakening in me, just like my year of mission in Rome. For that matter, imagine the intensity of reaching something in only twenty days, before the previous experience of a whole year. It is possible that those who have walked with me will say I am exaggerating, but I have the grace of living this kind of thing in a really profound way. It touches me like the most pure and authentic love.
The simple fact of being really disconnected from everything for twenty days: friends, family, work, in a nutshell, from the world with all its noise – and not that false disconnection of going away for a weekend to a summer house or to the countryside with friends, where one only changes places physically– makes one really find oneself with his profoundest fears, passions, desires, etc. On one hand, I lament to say that the only way to accomplish real progress in life, a discovering of oneself, a detachment, is taking on this kind of distancing. Unfortunately every advance and growth in life involves the risk of losing what you most love. But that is the theory of change: you cannot have everything; we have to let go to get. It was not in vain that Jesus had to separate himself for his greatest confrontation with the devil, but this took him to his greatest strengthening with God. However I do not want to beat around the bush speaking about the benefits of separating oneself, so back to the Cruzada.
The joy of encountering God
I remember that approximately forty minutes before arriving at the Bellavista Shrine, I took the time to record an audio of what I experienced from beginning to end. Now I see the benefit of this audio. Without it, this written account would be very boring or at least lacking something. My first desire upon launching this walk through the Andes was to go to a re-encounter with God in order to once again be well with myself and to be better for those around me. I accomplished this, thanks to my main slogan of not following the norm of “how it should be.” Where am I going with this? Well in away, it came about that instead of forcing myself to pray the rosary (I always lose count of the Hail Marys) every day during the first hour of the walk when there was silence, I began to talk to God about my things, and I closed this with ten Our Fathers and five Hail Marys. Maintaining my faithfulness, but obtaining a way of communicating with God, I was able to go out to the encounter. This is the reason I speak of how bad the “what it should be” is. Without setting aside certain criteria, one has to go out to find their way. And this affects many things: job performance, relationships as a couple, friendships, etc. Imposing parameters make many things break forth.
Another great learning experience I had was God’s love for each one of us. Many times, we ask God for a career, a job, a courtship, or whatever accomplishment, but in reality, all these things many times depend on us. What he looks for is for us to be happy and at peace without worrying what we have or do not possess. It happened to me during the walk, many times I was anxious or bitter about things in my life, and I did not enjoy the gift of sharing with others, appreciating the landscape, praying in peace, the only thing that is needed to justify joy and peacefulness in life. When I realized this, oof! Joy broke out, and I began to value and to really enjoy my daily things. I understood the famous concept of accepting everything with joy, even what to the world is painful or distressing. I accepted it with joy, but that was only possible if God was at the end of everything. That does not mean that a courtship break-up or a failure at work loses value, instead it loses its negative force. In a nutshell, I do not know if I accomplished my objective in this written account, but I was asked for my experience and it was that.
The passing of any given day
A day of Cruzada began at 4:00 am with a very energetic seminarian who began to wake the group. I tried to get ahead of this. So I moved alone and with convenience, and then with humor and good mate (herbal tea) I watched others hurrying to get ready. After a usual light breakfast (sweet bread and coffee) we began to walk in silence, seeking that this was the most intense hour of personal prayer.
And it was. Real internal struggles were freed during those moments. Upon finishing this, after the first stop of the walk, the usual pilgrimage followed. Some could pray rosaries, sing, talk, listen to music and even in my case, begin reading. During the walk, stops were made approximately every five or eight km, where we were re-supplied with water, and if we were lucky or cunning, we could get something to eat.
Upon arriving at our destinations (schools, military posts, open fields, or the edge of some arroyo) we were served lunch, that to the surprise of many, was a potato, an egg, and a tomato. However at night, we enjoyed a good stew or some noodles with meat. After lunch it was almost impossible not to take at least a two-hour nap, because sleeping little and walking twenty five to thirty-five km daily is difficult not to end up practically beat.
We celebrated Mass daily and before going to sleep always the final night prayer. The greatest difficulty of the trip, beyond the muscle aches, injuries, and blisters, I believe was the overwhelming sun that began to burn beginning at eleven in the morning and it did not decrease until at least until four or five in the afternoon.
This is the Cruzada, the spiritual gift of meeting with Christ in such a beautiful way and the beauty of sleeping 3,000 meters high in the midst of the terrain, on a mountain range, after a bath in a crystalline arroyo, and if that was not enough, being covered by a starry sky that was impressive. There really is no comparison, at least in this life.
Original: Spanish. 15 February 2018. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA. Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA