At only fifteen years old, I stepped into St. Peter’s Square for the first time. And although I didn’t know it then, my life would never be the same, thanks to that piazza.
I know I was abundantly blessed to have parents who realized importance of this, even to the point of taking me out of school for two weeks so that I could travel to France and Italy. I don’t take for granted the opportunities I’ve been given to travel over the last 20 years. It is a grace, undeserved, and it’s why I (1) strive to never take it for granted and (2) pray on my travels for those who ask for prayers, particularly those who are unable to see and touch these places.
I write and speak and teach. But pilgrimage provides formation in a way sitting in a classroom or listening to a podcast never can. Touching the Catholic faith as one does on pilgrimage is life-changing. As human beings, we need tangible experiences in order to learn and grow. For some of us adults, the tangible experiences we have of Christ and his Church are now limited to our Sunday morning worship within our parish community. While there are good things about this, it is also restricting.
It can be hard to wonder at the Lord within the familiar confines of home.
It may be difficult to be surprised by the Lord in the comfort of known surroundings.
It is impossible to hear the Lord in the monotonous din of daily life.
In order to nourish our spiritual lives, we have to take time away from the comfortable, the familiar, the monotony. Maybe this is a a retreat. Or maybe it’s a pilgrimage – whether down the street or across the ocean.
Perhaps we need to be reminded that the Lord intervenes into time and history. What better way to do this than to walk in the Holy Land? Maybe you need to be reminded that you have a Mother who loves you? Where else shall we go but Mexico City or Fatima and pray where Our Lady came to us? Or maybe you just need to be stretched outside your comfort zone, to detach yourself from the familiar for a time so that reality becomes clearer?
It doesn’t mean that you’re going to be stuck by a lighting bolt on retreat. Or that you’re going to come back from pilgrimage completely converted. It simply means you’ll give the Lord a chance to help you see truth, goodness, and beauty a little better.
He’s already seeking us. Perhaps it’s time to seek him. Step out of the routine, step away from home, and seek.
This June, I’m leading a trip from Fatima and Zaragoza and Lourdes, with stops at Avila and Segovia and Torreciudad along the way. Come with me. Our chaplain will be Father Anselm Rodriguez, O.Praem., a wonderful Norbertine from St. Michael’s Abbey in Californa who loves our Lady and desires to share his zeal with us. (Find more information here!)
If you struggle with Our Lady, I challenge you to come with us and see if there’s anything to this whole Marian devotion thing.
If you already have a relationship with Mary, come with us to thank her and Her Son for what they have done in your life.
If you’re looking for healing, let’s go to Lourdes together and ask Our Lady to intercede and bind up those wounds.
If you desire the conversion of a loved one, let’s go to Fatima and ask Our Lady to intervene.
If you need encouragement in your vocation, let’s go to Zaragoza and ask her for renewed zeal.
Let’s break out of the monotony of daily life and seek the Lord out on pilgrimage. Let’s pick up our crosses, worries, and anxieties and carry them to Our Lady. She’ll lead us to her Son.