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Pilgrimage of a Lithuanian and an Austrian novice from Nuremberg to Vienna.

There are many reasons for a pilgrimage. But why should someone go without money and ask strangers for food and lodging? Ignatius of Loyola asks exactly this from the novices of the Society of Jesus. His reason: “so you can accustom yourself to eat bad and to sleep bad, and to abandon all the hope into money and manmade things, so you can focus in true faith and imploring love in your creator and lord.”

Pilgrimage is a so called “experiment” at the Noviciate. It’s meant to test essential positions and attitudes which are important for a live in an order, to train them and to deepen them.  In case of the pilgrimage it’s first of all faith in God. It is also about freedom: How free am I from claims to my living conditions? Do I also bear less comfort? Both attitudes are important not only for later apostolic ministry, but also for a general expression of our faith in God, which alone gives us all that we really need.

In the summer of 2017 we, Donatas Kuzmickas and Lukas Kraus, set us to this experiment. Our journey started directly at the front door of the Novitiate House in Nuremberg and led us through the Upper Palatinate, Niederbayern, Upper and Lower Austria to Mariazell and further to Vienna, where we finally after four weeks, a little tired and a few kilograms lighter, but otherwise well preserved were gladly received by our fellow companions.

On the way there was not every day a hot meal for us and not every night a soft bed. But we never seriously suffered from hunger and we always found some roof over our heads. Often our accommodations were quite comfortable. The real challenge was to leave us in the providence of God each day, and to remain patient and joyful even after ten or more hours had elapsed and still thinking where we would probably spend the night. Surprisingly challenging for us was also to go the way every day in true fraternal harmony and to always reconcile the differences of opinions and to understand each other better. The exam prayer (a one-day retreat in the form of a prayer), the daily trustworthy exchange and prayer together, helped us greatly. The "learning effect" of the experiment has actually ceased.

We were especially moved by the great warmth and helpfulness of many people we met on the way. For example, an old farmer in Upper Austria spontaneously invited us to a large glass of wine (Most) on a particularly hot day. Such experiences took place almost every day. The best thing for us was when we were admitted to a house and were allowed to partake in the life of our hosts for an evening. The many conversations about faith and life will be remembered for a long time.

It was also nice to stop in some of the numerous cloisters and monasteries on the way. We have been able to get to know the diversity of the Church and religious life, and we are grateful for the experience of brotherhood. We were particularly grateful to the Benedictine people in Niederaltaich, the Graz School Sisters in Mariazell, and the Cistercians in Heiligenkreuz, as we were able to recover from the hardships of the road for a whole day.

Finally, through our pilgrimage experiment, we have also become better acquainted with the Society of Jesus. We wanted to set a sign of the growing connection between our provinces, a Lithuanian and a German novice on their way to Austria. In the communities in Linz and Vienna, we were also very cordially and in brotherly love received. After the many very different quarters on the long pilgrimage we had the feeling to be really at home.

Nuremberg, September 2017.

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