Living with Christ Pilgrimage: In the Footsteps of Blessed John XXIII

In 2012, Novalis offered its Living with Christ subscribers an opportunity to embark on a pilgrimage to Italy to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II. The pilgrimage followed the journey of one of the most beloved popes in history, Blessed Pope John XXIII, from his humble birthplace to the Chair of Peter in Rome. We began our pilgrimage in Sotto il Monte where Pope John XXIII was born. Now a place of pilgrimage and a pastoral centre, it is a simple farmhouse in a quiet little village near Bergamo in northern Italy. After being blessed by our priest guide, each pilgrim shared why they decided to embark on this pilgrimage. Some were interested in seeing holy places, others were coming to be with friends and family to celebrate special occasions, and still others had deeply personal reasons relating to dealing with illness and loss. Interestingly, very few knew much about the life and work of Blessed Pope John. Therefore, every day as we traveled, we read something written by or about him. The more we learned, the more we loved him.

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Each day was an adventure to someplace beautiful, wonderful and holy. Sirmione on the Lago di Garda and Verona embodied the charm and allure of Italy. One of the highlights of the trip was the visit to the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua and the tomb of that beloved saint. A day in Venice reached a crescendo with a sung Mass in the Basilica of St. Mark and a private tour with the rector Mons. Camilotto who told us how John XXIII, as Patriarch of Venice, transformed a stultified church there. In Florence, we walked through the beauty and glory of the Renaissance. Assisi was a place of profound tranquility and we prayed together in the Chapel of Peace in the Basilica of St. Francis. Our journey culminated in Rome where, on October 11, we all sat together in St. Peter’s Square with thousands of other pilgrims for the Mass with Pope Benedict XVI commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the beginning of the Year of Faith. We concluded our day with a visit to  the tomb of “good Pope John” who watched over us every step along the way.

The day before we left, we visited the Catacombs and prayed with a renewed faith. That night 30 former strangers— then fellow pilgrims and now friends—shared their own stories of the transformative power of the trip. What we had seen and heard enlightened our minds and transformed our hearts. It made us a community.

—Lauretta Santarossa

Living with Christ, in cooperation with Calabria Tours, is offering a pilgrimage to rediscover the foundations of our faith. For more information on the Year of Faith Pilgrimage from Sept 26 to Oct 5, 2013 contact lwcevents@novalis.ca or call and leave a message at 1-877-702-7773 Ext. 222.

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