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**Image: Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean (Paradiso Canto 31) by Gustave Doré, 1868 [Hachette and Co., Paris, France]

By Robert Royal, The Catholic Thing, Feb. 27, 2023

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.


There are many ways of being a pilgrim, only one of which is to go physically to some special – preferably tried and true and holy – destination. That’s my favorite way, since (at least in theory), it gets body, mind, and spirit all moving in the same direction.* In practice, of course, it’s more complicated than that because, in a fallen world, human life has become complicated. Even at the natural level, people we meet every day are often engaged in enormous struggles just to be normal. And at the spiritual level, the pathways get steep and rocky. Fast.

Lent should remind us – we’re often told – that all of us are on a spiritual pilgrimage, whether we know it or not. It’s good to be reminded of that, but it can make it seem that a “good” Lent will be orderly, peaceful, gently leading us to “see God” more clearly. That’s so, sometimes. But is a “good Lent” only one that meets our expectations? Strangely,  sometimes a “bad” Lent can be better. …

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