Radical Religion

Leo Tolstoy as a Pilgrim

My brother lives at the beach, and he was out walking the dog late one afternoon when he spotted an unusual fellow walking along the beach. He was wearing a kind of Franciscan habit, sandals and was carrying a walking stick and a big Bible. My brother engaged him in conversation. It seems the man was taking this gospel passage literally.

And He called the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.

Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.

I think the fellow’s name was Andrew. He explained to my brother that he used to be a Wall Street stock broker and that he had converted to the Catholic faith, given away all his wealth and set out on the road wearing just his habit, with a staff and sandals and a Bible. He’d been on the road for five years and had had many adventures. Read more.

 

  • Christina

    I can’t help but think of this everytime I hear about Leo Tolstoy: “Tolstoy died in 1910, at the age of 82. He died of pneumonia[34] at Astapovo train station, after falling ill when he left home in the middle of winter. His death came only days after gathering the nerve to abandon his family and wealth[35] and take up the path of a wandering ascetic,[citation needed] a path that he had agonized over pursuing for decades. He had not been at the peak of health before leaving home; his wife and daughters were all actively engaged in caring for him daily. He had been speaking and writing of his own death in the days preceding his departure from home, but fell ill at the station not far from home. The station master took Tolstoy to his apartment, where his personal doctors were called to the scene. He was given injections of morphine and camphor.” –from Wikipedia, but I’ve read it elsewhere. Tolstoy talked and wrote a good game, but he couldn’t seem to live it. He treated his wife horribly. How do I reconcile the ideas of someone who tells me how I should live, with how that person actually lived?

  • http://nettiesworld.com Annette Heidmann

    I know enough people for whom desperate poverty is not merely a lifestyle choice that I’ve learned there is more than one way to experience miracles. One way is to trust God for everything. Another is to use God’s gifts to *be* the miracle that someone else needs. Whatever He gives us, we must place it at His service.

  • shana

    The man who most boldly pointed the way to Christ for me and prayed over me that I might know Jesus when I was a rather non-believing teen was not dressed as a ‘pilgrim’ that day, not in his patchwork denim habit and home-made sandals, but in jeans and a plaid shirt with a BIG crucifix in a gun holster at his side. At that time, when I was still a teenager, he walked mostly around Pittsburgh and the Tri-state but would disappear for a while and then I’d see him again. A few years later he made his denim habit and would disappear for much longer stretches of time until I lost track of him completely.

    His name is George Walter, but most people know him as Pilgrim George. You can google him by that name; there are newspaper articles printed about him about one or more a year. There are also clips of him that people have put up on YouTube. He is still wandering the world as a pilgrim, praying for people to know Jesus.

  • jedesto

    Do I see a new literary alter-ego — pilgrim — standing in the wings? I wonder whether his name might be Longinus (pun?) or Giraffeus.

  • http://www.davidathey.com David A

    Lunatics, lovers, and poets help make the spiritual world go ’round.

  • Pingback: The Worst Choice Isn’t Always the Best | Held By His Pierced Hands

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ Christian

    This reminds me of how Tolstoy figures in the plot of “The Year of Living Dangerously,” which I watched last night for probably the tenth time:

    BILLY: And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
    GUY: What’s that?
    BILLY: It’s from Luke, chapter three, verse ten. What then must we do? Tolstoy asked the same question. He wrote a book with that title. He got so upset about the poverty in Moscow that he went one night into the poorest section and just gave away all his money. You could do that now. Five American dollars would be a fortune to one of these people.
    GUY: Wouldn’t do any good, just be a drop in the ocean.
    BILLY: Ahh, that’s the same conclusion Tolstoy came to, I disagree.

    • Christina

      I remember that movie distinctly. It’s a good movie and better than the book.

  • Christina

    What says you, Fr. Longnecker? I have loved your book, “More Christianity,” but your longing for the Tolstyian life appalls me.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I think you may be mistaking my admiration for Tolstoy’s romantic notion of being a pilgrim with complete admiration of everything about Tolstoy. From what I know of his whole life there is not much there to emulate.

      • Christina

        Thanks for your answer. I am a barbarian. (I do long for beautiful cathedrals, though, because they do exist, and they can be built.) But I am completely incapbable of longing for places that do not exist (for instance Narnia) or admiring romantic notions that can not be attained without shedding all my responsibilities.

  • Christina

    Sorry for the long delay in replying to any comments, but the subject pains me greatly.


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