As a youngster, I considered the Fourth of July as the midpoint of the end of my summer vacation, and the dreaded thought of returning to school would suddenly pop into my head, causing me to shudder and to feel momentarily anxious. I quickly repressed any unpleasant thoughts about school, returning my attention to whatever excitement, adventure or mischief was at hand.
When my children were young, I recall thinking that the Fourth of July marked the midpoint of the end of their summer vacation, and the joyous thought of their return to school would suddenly pop into my head, causing me to experience a brief moment of euphoria. I guiltily repressed the pleasure of these thoughts, returning my focus to whatever mayhem was unfolding around me.
I am now fifty-five years old (gulp) and untimely retired (ugh); all of my children are adults. Even at this age, I still consider the Fourth of July as the midpoint of summer, evoking thoughts of how quickly summer is passing. It’s also typically around Midsummer when I start day-dreaming about the annual Otpust held in honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at Mt. St. Macrina over the Labor Day holiday weekend.
My thoughts and emotions are divergent. Reminiscent thoughts of pilgrimages past evoke joy and thanksgiving for the spiritual richness that Otpust has gifted me over the years, but they concurrently trigger a melancholic nostalgia for the lost traditions of the “good ol’ days.” I also now must consider other pragmatics, namely my physical ability and financial capacity of making the pilgrimage from Oxford, Michigan to Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Thanks to the generous hospitality of dear friends in Greensburg who have graciously offered accommodations in their home over the holiday weekend, my hopes are high that I’ll be in attendance at the eighty-second annual Otpust… God willing!
For anyone reading my words who has made the pilgrimage(s), I hope that my rambling reflections evoke positive remembrances of special blessed moments for you. To those who have never experienced Otpust, I thank you for indulging me in sharing the traditions and spirit of the pilgrimage, that is built upon love for God and devotion to His Mother Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
*As an aside, Midsummer, also known as St. John’s Day, is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, and more specifically the Northern European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice or take place on a day between June 19 (July 1) and June 25 (July 8) and the preceding evening.