Recently I accompanied my wife, who is Catholic, on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There, up a steep and rocky hill, was a statue of Mary at the site of an apparition of hers many years ago. Our group, among countless other pilgrims, was to climb to that spot which, for Catholics, is a place of great holiness.
From decades of being trampled by millions of feet, the path was bare of any vegetation or soil. There was no place to step except on limestone, from rocks a foot or two in size down to 1 inch shards and gravel. The priest who led our group chose to make the climb barefoot. As I walked by behind him, I saw that he winced when stepping on the small, broken fragments of rock. He gave sighs of relief when his feet were planted on single larger rocks.
To me, as a Quaker, this gave a spiritual message. The spots of rough fragments and shards of rock were the distracting jumble of “saints,” prescribed prayers, rituals, and traditions which the Catholic Church has derived from stories about Jesus. The large, individual rocks, in contrast, were the soothing presence of Christ Himself, with us and in us, intact and in His entirety.