A patient came to me a decade ago asking for medical advice in preparation for a pilgrimage. She is Muslim and was planning to make the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca which is required of all Muslims once in their lives if they are physically able and can financially afford it.
I asked her how she decided that this was the time to go. She said that it was intentional. She and her husband waited until their two daughters were old enough to be on their own if something should happen to them. She said that one does not make the Hajj until one is prepared for the fact that one might die along the way.
I thought about that encounter this week as over 700 pilgrims died in a stampede while making their sacred pilgrimage to Mecca. It takes courage to be a pilgrim.
It takes courage to be a pilgrim in most world religions, because faith entails an element of risk.
For some it incurs physical risk – like the sacred obligation to make a pilgrimage. For others faith involves at the very least intellectual risk – to hope and trust in something that cannot be proven. For still others it is an emotional risk – to love those from whom you receive nothing in return.
All of us are pilgrims. Grant us courage for the journey.