Iona Comments by Paula Coalier
Two images come to mind when I think of our trip to Iona: the ever-changing, implacable character of the wind and sky and sea as it buffeted that great eyewitness to God’s work, the Abbey. The former provided the strong sense of place all of us experienced, and for me, established a link to those souls who braved the elements to deliver the gospel in that place and hallow that ground; the latter quickly assumed for me a living, tangible personality, a go-to place, a kind of North Star. I even commented to Mary as we walked to the ferry on the last day that I thought I was going to miss living in the shadow of the Abbey most of all.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the last couple of weeks has been the idea of pilgrimage. Prior to the trip, I had no idea why I was going beyond enjoying time away from St. Louis with other people of faith. The journey to Iona changed that: as I moved farther away from my daily routine, I became increasingly disoriented and less “myself.” The Waymarkers book helped me figure out what was happening and my journal gave me a place to record the process. This has turned out to be a huge blessing, confirming leanings I had only experienced as whispers, introducing possibilities I had never considered, and reframing wrong thinking that I have carried around as dead weight for decades. Most of what happened to me on Iona needs to be explored thoroughly—probably in writing—but that will come as the path continues to appear.
I suppose the sheer weight of the baggage I took to Iona should have tipped me off about all this, if only metaphorically. And although I returned with somewhat the same physical load, I’m feeling much lighter since our long journey home and especially eager to explore what the Lord has in store for me after helping me shed some of the emotional heaviness of the past. One thing is very clear: the period of self-imposed isolation that I had fallen into but didn’t really see before our trip is now over, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
All the photos on this page were contributed by pilgrims Paula Coalier, Mary Drastal, and Barbara Hite. They show glimpses of the pilgrimage and appear here in no particular order.