I love crickets. I really do.
Like, crickets are my favorite soundtrack. I’m sitting in my room at the retreat center with the window open so that I can allow a breeze through and I’m listening to the crickets.
Crickets may actually be one of my favorite surprises from this trip back to this side of the country. I don’t hear them in Seattle and I hadn’t noticed their absence until, here in Indiana, I suddenly hear them again.
Funny how thoughts are filed with certain memories, as if labeled by a code. The sound of crickets in the night has always been reassuring to me, reminding me somehow of the fact that I am still my mother’s son.
We lived in an old house in a small town east of Pittsburgh. We had no air conditioning and the windows were wide open all summer long unless there was a rain was blowing sideways. I remember evenings sitting in my parents’ room coloring a Batman coloring book. My mother would save the ironing until the heat of the day had passed. Pirates on the radio and the window open for the breeze.
And that has me remembering our porch. Sleeping on the porch on summer nights with no school. Our home was on the side of a hill looking over our small hometown of Wilmerding, PA; home to the Westinghouse Air Brake Company and all its workers and the various churches and social clubs and restaurants. In my earliest memories, I think of it as the idyllic Bedford Falls from It’s A Wonderful Life.
The porch reminds me of the crickets and the crickets have me right back to sitting here with the window open to the night.
Funny how you travel the world and you make this pilgrimage and you walk 270 miles and it’s just the crickets that takes you over.
The 5-day pilgrims joined us today. A hundred additional walkers, added to the core group. Our numbers have grown. Things are changing. And that’s good.
It’s funny to me how we worry about the changes that are coming as if we can stop change.
The core group has become a very tightly knit bunch, as you might expect, and so of course there was some concern for how the additional pilgrims might change the dynamic. At the same time, I had wondered how the new people joining us would feel about walking into the fold. Would it be exciting? Would it be intimidating? Would it matter at all?
It was fantastic to have them join us today.
Let me rephrase that.
It was terrific for us to grow today.
Of course, the dynamic changed. Of course it did. How could it not? But that’s not a bad thing. As we get closer to campus, I can already feel the experience turning more from one of solemnity to one of celebration.
Yes, there is Mass. Yes, there are daily devotions. Tonight after dinner we even received pages of prayer requests from Notre Dame clubs from around the world - pages of individually printed sheets of prayer requests from every Notre Dame club around the world for each of the pilgrims, old and new, to take with them and keep in their hearts and offer up in prayer. I don’t know the actual number of requests divided among us all, but it’s got to be in the thousands.
So, it’s not that the solemnity is gone, not by a long shot. There is piety and prayer.
But there’s also growth and change. And it’s growth and change which prove we are living.
Look, things change. It happens. The University we are celebrating started out as a log chapel. And then it grew. And when I was a student there more than twenty-five years ago, I thought it was pretty perfect. But it has changed and grown some more.
Today was sneaky challenging. We only walked – no biking – and the temperature wasn’t that bad. But the early morning rain dropped the temperature and a lot of people soaked by rain did not then realize that they were also soaked by sweat. A lot of us seem to have allowed ourselves to get a couple quarts low on oil and people are frankly wiped, me included. I need to get some sleep.
I just want to point out that you can run from change or you can embrace it, but you cannot stop it. It can be scary. It can be uncertain. And when everything is up in the air and unfamiliar, it can be nice to sit with the window open and listen to the crickets to remind yourself of the familiarity of what used to be.
But telling yourself things are just as they always were is untrue. They are not. Things change. We live a story. Every single thought is a new sentence in that story and with each new sentence the story changes. New characters are introduced and the story gains complexity and layers and depth.
The walk, this pilgrimage, changed today and that’s an exciting thing. Alums, administration, and a surprising number of parents have grown our numbers. We are a different pilgrimage today from the one we were when we began, just as we are a different University now from what we were 175 years ago.
We don’t run from that. We embrace it. We celebrate.
We are ND.