Reflections from the Grandparents’ Faith Café – Marilyn Henry

To Father Richard, míle buíochas for being with us today and especially for your support and encouragement of Catherine and the CGA through the years. Personally, I’m such a big fan of  yours and I’ve been terrified of following you ever since Catherine asked me to present the reflection today on our theme for this Faith Café – Our Pilgrim Journey.

So, there’s a little nursery rhyme some of us learned as children called, “Going on a bear hunt” . These days, children and parents may consider it too unsophisticated to teach, but we loved it as children. It starts:

“We’re going on a Bear hunt
We’re going to catch a big one
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh, there’s some long, wavy grass!
Can’t go over it
Can’t go under it
Can’t go around it
Gotta go through it

And on it goes, through a mushroom patch, wide river, deep dark cave where it’s very dark and scary till, as fear takes over, you want to turn around, run back through the river, the mushroom patch, the long grass, run into your house and lock the door. But the last line of the nursery rhyme as the door shuts is: I’m not afraid!

Any journey worth making can be frightening, at times tedious and difficult – but also can bring much joy and contentment.

A pilgrim is one who journeys toward a goal – like going on a bear hunt. As Catholic Christians, we’re all pilgrims on a journey, commissioned to grow deeper in our faith and to bring others to journey with us (Matthew 28:19-20).

 Did you ever expect the journey would be easy? There’s a bear involved. There will be obstacles along the way. Maybe you’ll want to turn back, give up. So, I have a few questions for you to ponder today.

As a grandparent, where are you on your pilgrim journey? Who do you plan to take on the journey with you? What tools will you bring to fight the bear? I find for myself, the older I get and the more I see our world change, I want to reach back to simpler times. Just last weekend, my husband and I took 3 of our young grandchildren on an overnight camping trip where for 24 hours we thought we might have their full attention. As you can guess, it wasn’t long before the electronic devices came out. So, I reached into my grandmother’s tool bag and pulled out some old school traditional devices – a game of  jacks, which I’ve learned recently, has been played for more than 2,000 years, sound familiar and a yo-yo. After a few quick lessons– game on. 

Then I thought – teaching moments – 10 jacks, Ten Commandments. “Onesies, who can tell me the First Commandment?” (I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other Gods before me). . .

 A yo-yo goes up and down – Prayers go up, blessings come down. 

I’ve been blessed to take two of my grandchildren on mission to Guatemala and 3 on a 130 mile walking pilgrimage to Santiago, Spain. But I can also take them on my journey from my living room or kitchen. Honey, can you please stir this for Ghee – two Hail Mary’s should do it.

Every Pilgrimage requires planning and packing – emotional, spiritual and sometimes physical preparation. But I’ve learned, that I need to pray more and pack less, because I already have the tools needed for the journey  – especially if I go old school – go back to the basics – the traditions passed down through the ages.

I read that there’s an ancient Celtic saying: “Heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in thin places, that distance is even shorter”.

Take your grandchildren to these “thin places” Where the Mystical meets the magical.

Teach them the lives of the Saints – the Real Presence.

As Bishop Robert Barron says, “Show them the beauty, it will lead them to the truth”.

Return often to that peaceful pilgrim place in your mind too– especially when overwhelmed by the “messiness” of family life – listen to that voice drawing you back. 

At times will you still want to turn back – when faced with the bear?– sure, the journey can seem long, the burden heavy – Be not afraid. Remember, the reward is out of this world and it’s our role, our Biblical mandate to pass on the treasure, the gift passed on to us, to bring them on our Pilgrim journey.

So, I leave you to your pilgrim journey with words from a well-known hymn whose lyrics were translated to English in 1870 – an old school hymn

We are a Pilgrim People,
We are the Church of God.
A family of believers,
Disciples of the Lord.
United in one spirit,
Ignited by the fire.
Still burning through the ages,
Still present in our lives.


This reflection was written and shared by Marilyn Henry, International Co-ordinator of the CGA at the September 2021 Grandparents’ Faith Café