The MROP as a Spiritual Pilgrimage
by Steve Conroy, Illuman Ritual Elder
For men going through a crisis or change and looking for something to give them perspective, I have often recommended going through a Men’s Rites of Passage. If they are interested, I encourage them to go to the next available Rites, no matter where it is. They should go while still in the liminal space created for them by their current circumstances. Father Rohr taught us that it is in these liminal spaces that transformation most often happens.
I have participated in many MROPs as a Ritual Elder over the years and have found the location can also be a contributor to getting us into liminal space. This is especially true when we travel to places we have never been or to climates or environments that put us out of our comfort zones. Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona is a good example of a place most of us would not be used to. It is harsh and dry, yet also an extremely beautiful place—perfect for an MROP.
In 2006, I myself was in a place of crisis and very depressed. I missed the deadline for the Ghost Ranch MROP in the spring, so I signed up for the New York MROP in the fall of that year. Making the pilgrimage (if you will allow me to call it that) to New York really took me out of my comfort zone. Yet the journey to and from New York, and some of the people I met, both at the MROP and along the way, each played a part in my overall experience. I was a vulnerable, open sponge, soaking it all in…and God used all of it.
When I traveled to Ireland in 2019 to help staff an MROP, I found a whole new level of liminal space. I had always wanted to travel to the country of my ancestors. I began to feel their pull and their presence even from the airplane window as we descended over this lush, green, beautiful island. During that first visit, I felt very much at home as I discovered more about myself and my ancestors. Even the little things, like seeing the freckled skin of men who looked just like me and my siblings and eating the same kind of food, prepared the same way, as the food was prepared when I was a kid, helped me feel connected and open. After the MROP, I also had the opportunity to travel the country, track down some relatives, and visit farms, pubs, churches, and graveyards all connected to my family history. What I found was miraculous, remarkable, and wonderful.
This summer, M.A.L.Es Ireland will be holding another MROP, and I am planning to be there. If making the pilgrimage to this country and this event sounds intriguing to you, then I invite you to consider joining us. You can find more details here.
If you are drawn to the MROP but can’t make the trek to Ireland this summer, you might, instead, consider making a pilgrimage to one of the three MROPs happening in the States this summer—in Southern California June 14–18, Minnesota June 21–15, or New Mexico September 27–October 1. (Both SoCal and New Mexico will be offering concurrent Spanish-language Rites, aka Umbrales.)
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