Spending my days with a preschooler and toddler, I am seeing a lot of information on their learning sites about “patterning,” which, as nearly as I can tell, is a fancier word for what we have always done with children. Learning predictable patterns prepares children to read and to do math. But I came across a beautiful devotion which quoted Hildegarde of Bingen from the 12th century who spoke of becoming “like a feather on God’s breath.” The devotion’s author, Christine Valters Paintner, described perigrinatio, a journey, especially a long and meandering one, not at all predictable.
In the Celtic tradition, perigrinatio was a special kind of pilgrimage, Ms. Paintner wrote. The ancient Celtic monks would leave all that was safe and secure behind and take off to find their “places of resurrection,” which is to say, the place God was calling them to settle and offer their gifts. She reported that St. Brendan the Navigator, a 6th century Celtic monk, took off with 12 other monks in little boats without rudders or oars, trusting the winds would take them where they were meant to go.
The term “flying blind” comes to mind. That expression came into being during World War II, when it was used by pilots who could not see the horizon and had to rely on instruments. It came into popular usage to indicate feeling one’s way, proceeding by guesswork.
In the midst of our current pandemic, we may feel like we are “flying blind.” But I wonder if we couldn’t borrow on the Celtic tradition and frame this period of time as a perigrinatio, a special kind of pilgrimage. Without minimizing the difficulties inherent in this present moment, perhaps perigrinatio gives us a way to seek meaning in what can otherwise feel like a quagmire of uncertainty. Does the very lack of predictability present opportunities we might miss in ordinary circumstances?
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: Perhaps a feather in some visible place could serve as a reminder to stay open to this“pilgrimage” and its possibilities. 😊