Traveling and meeting people from different parts of the world have been some of my special blessings in life. Growing up in the fourth largest city in India, I never imagined that I would spend the major part of my adult life in another land. I never thought that people on three continents would become family to me. As I look back, travel has enabled me to realize these blessings.
Even though I dislike airports and airplanes, I love visiting new countries and meeting new people. If I could just click my heels and get to my destination just like Dorothy without the hassles of flying, I would visit every corner our amazing planet. Traveling is a great teacher. It can open our eyes in such a way that we will appreciate our own culture and will be enriched by new traditions.
In our Christian faith, there is a form of travel that has existed since the time of the apostles. Christians undertook pilgrimages to visit the sites of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection of the Lord. This practice continued peacefully until probably the seventh century when most of the Middle East came under the rule of Muslim rulers. While some sultans allowed free passage to Christian pilgrims, others obstructed the free flow of travelers. To free the holy sites and to ensure safe passage for Christian pilgrims Crusades were initially undertaken.
Once the Church became free under the Roman Emperor Constantine, the City of Rome also became the favored destination for Christian pilgrims. They came from many parts of the world to pray at the tomb of the Apostles Peter and Paul. They visited the catacombs and the numerous churches dedicated to the first Christian martyrs. As Rome gained greater power, it became the center of the civilized world.
Today Rome is one of the sought after destinations for leisure travelers and for pilgrims. The whole of Italy beckons travelers with her rich natural, archaeological, religious and artistic heritage. In fact 12% of Italy’s GDP comes from tourism. Italy offers so many beautiful places to visit. She also entices travelers with her food and wine. Ever since the first apostle became the bishop of Rome, the Eternal City has had a hold on Catholics. So much so that there used to be a saying: “See Rome and die.” It does not mean that one would die after seeing Rome. It basically says that one should visit Rome before departing from this world.
As you know, I had the privilege of living in Italy for five years while I was teaching at a Catholic university that comes under the jurisdiction of the Holy See. During my sojourn there, I visited several places. Learning to speak Italian opened many doors and I was able to appreciate both my Catholic roots and the Italian culture. Having experienced the wealth of that great country, I wanted to share that experience with others. That is why I have taken upon myself to lead groups of travelers and pilgrims to Rome and other Italian cities. During my time here in the US, I have organized three trips to Rome.
Ever since I came to St Paul of the Cross, I have been wanting to lead a pilgrimage to the Eternal City. Many projects and events kept me busy the last seven years. Finally I have managed to organize a trip to Italy this fall. In addition to visiting the important sights in Rome, we will journey to Assisi and Florence, and take a pleasant ride through the breath-taking Amalfi Coast. We will taste some great Italian cuisine and partake of some fabulous local wines. It will be both a vacation and a pilgrimage. We will celebrate Mass in several holy sites, visit important museums and pray at the tombs of certain saints. We will be away for 8 nights spending 7 nights in Italy. The package includes roundtrip airfare.
Here is a great opportunity. Older children are welcome if they are accompanied by their parents. I am excited about sharing a great experience with my parishioners. If you are interested, come to our Information Meeting that will be held on Wednesday, April 5th, in the Holy Family Chapel at 7:30 pm. We will answer all your questions. The tour operator that I am working with has done this for many, many years.
A trip like this brings several blessings to the parish and her members. In addition to taking the pilgrims on a prayerful journey, it builds up community. On the trips I have been on, I have seen the travelers form deep and lasting friendships. We come away with a greater understanding not only of Italy and the Italians, but also of our Catholic faith and history.
Pilgrimages have been a constant in the practice of our faith. From the earliest times Christians have traveled to holy places to pray for special intentions and to have their faith deepened. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has these words regarding pilgrimages:
Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer. For pilgrims seeking living water, shrines are special places for living the forms Christian prayer “in Church.” (#2691)
Our Lenten journey itself is a pilgrimage towards Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Let us continue on this journey with hope and fervor.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...