A pilgrimage is unlike any other form of travel. The goal is not how many pictures you’ve taken or how many souvenirs can be squeezed into a suitcase but achieving some form of spiritual growth, a chance for a new or strengthened insight into a life of faith.
As our Living with Christ pilgrimage in Italy drew to a close, it was clear that all of us on the journey came away with something special. Some were moved by the unparalleled artistry of Italy, viewing works designed to illustrate what we often struggle to express about the things in which we place our faith. In Ravenna, for example, we saw breathtaking mosaics dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries, depicting Christ and the Apostles. The works, which merge the styles of the East and West, are so important they carry a UNESCO World Heritage designation.
Others were touched by visiting the places were beloved saints had lived. Many fellow pilgrims, for example, were profoundly moved by the opportunity to visit the tomb of St. Anthony in Padua, where countless photos and notes left there speak to people’s faith in the power of saints to intervene on our behalf.
Seeing sights like Vatican City and the countless places where we encountered other pilgrims on similar journeys lent strength and inspiration.
Everyone loved the chance to attend daily Mass, with ample time to reflect on the places we’d been and the thoughts they prompted. It really was an exceptional opportunity to attend Mass in the crypt of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and understand how we were worshiping where so many had before us. “An inch of surprise leads us to a mile of gratefulness,” said Br. David Steindl-Rest, an American Benedictine monk. As we gathered together on our final evening together, it became apparent that all of us encountered surprises on this journey. For some, it was the surprise of what moved us. For others, it was the opportunity to find like-minded people in an increasingly secular world. Still others were surprised at what was uncovered deep in their hearts during this pilgrimage.
The common emotion was gratitude, whether it was thanks for the ability to be able to take such a trip, or for the gift of faith, right down to thanks from those who received a helping hand when the ancient cobblestone streets of some of the hill towns we visited seemed a little steep to walk.
With a lovely trip behind us, now the goal is to continue to continue the pilgrimage in our everyday lives.
-Catherine Mulroney, Editor of Living with Christ