On Pilgrimage

Today we leave for the Pilgrimage.  Four of us are traveling from Los Angeles, and will meet the other 21 pilgrims on Saturday morning, who are coming from all over the USA, as well as Australia, Sri Lanka, and Jamaica. From Fiumicino we will bus to Assisi, where we will settle in at the Casa Papa Giovanni.

St. Francis destroying a house the people of Assisi built for the Friars. (Cover of the Itinerary booklet.)
St. Francis destroying a house the people of Assisi built for the Friars. (Cover of the Itinerary booklet.)

I’m not sure what my Internet access will be, so I cannot promise where or how often I will post. I am active on Facebook and my Newsletter, in addition to  posting on this website. So you might want to be sure to connect with me on all three. Facebook is usually my choice for quick notes, while these website posts and the Newsletter require a bit more of a commitment. (At least that’s true now at my current level of social media savvy.)

You may want to bookmark the Pilgrimage itinerary to follow along in the best way possible.  I’m not planning to do much by way of “Today we will see/do this or that,” but I will try to find ways to share reflections along the way.  Another thing that might be helpful as we explore the life, mission, and spirituality of Francis and Clare is a chronology/timeline of both their lives together, which I compiled from several sources. Sometimes keeping a handle on what happened when can be a challenge.  I hope this helps.

From this point on, I’m not going to be concerned so much with the places and events – I’m leaving that in the hands of our guides. Rather, I want to “go with the flow,” let myself be immersed in the spirituality of this experience, and let God surprise me (and us) as God wills.

Please pray for me and the other traveling pilgrims that we may be open to the movements of grace that God wishes to give us. Please also pray for all those who have made this pilgrimage possible for us, those we carry with us in our hearts, as well as all who are traveling in spirit on this “virtual pilgrimage,” however it may unfold.

Please know that we are praying for you, every step of the way.

Here, to set the scene, are some reflections on the difference between a Pilgrimage and a tour, as explained in the program booklet:

Why a Pilgrimage?

Often people refer to our programs as tours. Just as often we have to explain gently and politely that we do not give tours but lead pilgrimages. What is the difference? Here are five distinguishing features.

  1. Pilgrims perceive an internal dimension to the pilgrimage, while tourists are concerned with the external journey alone. While everyone is on the same external journey, each one’s internal journey is different. A pilgrimage addresses that focus. Depth, not distance, is the goal.
  2. Pilgrims invest themselves, while tourists avoid personal commitment. A pilgrim allows the self to receive, to be ministered to and attempts to let go of controls.
  3. The focus for the pilgrim will be affected by the pilgrimage. Tourists seek to remain untouched on a deep level by their experiences. Thus a pilgrim seeks new insights, discoveries, and transformation.
  4. Both the journey and the arrival are important to the pilgrim, while only the arrival matters for the tourist. The tourist wants to get there. The Pilgrim’s attention is on the entire journey from beginning to end.
  5. Community is formed for pilgrims; community is not a goal for tourists. All come together as one from various countries, cultures, positions, religions, and branches of the Franciscan family. The tourist usually prefers to maintain his or her status quo.

And here are reflections by Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM, on How to be a pilgrim.

  1. Confess and be absolved of your sins. When medieval pilgrims went on pilgrimage to Compostela, they would stop in France at the great Gothic church of Vezelay, where they would receive absolution. Pilgrims today do the same before they leave on pilgrimage and/or when they arrive. Strive to be worthy to walk the way to a holy place.
  2. Detach yourself from what ever it is weighing you down. Before you leave on pilgrimage, lighten your baggage. Travel with less and lessen the “baggage” of what ever it is that is holding you back, keeping you from traveling lightly in your life. Meditate on Christ, who journeyed to earth to walk your road with you.
  3. Pray daily for the grace of a worthy pilgrimage. Pray, too, for those who will travel with you, your guides and your fellow pilgrims. Psalm 84 is a wonderful prayer of pilgrimage.
  4. Practice being present to the holy places of your own life. Your church, your home, your family, the place where are your loved ones are buried, are all holy. Being present to the people and things of your own life prepares you to be present to your pilgrimage way and its destination.
  5. Be thankful. The a “funding” experience, a storing up. All kinds of graces happen to you – on the way, when you arrive, and when you return – that move you to give thanks to God. When you return home, you will find yourself drawing gratefully upon what was stored up on pilgrimage: the memories, the changes that happen to you, the knowledge of things you did not know and that now sustain you.

Please join us in the Pilgrim’s prayer.

Eternal God, You are Love and Life, the Lord of time and of eternity. You have brought us to this time and place.

We adore You and praise you for all that has been, is, and will be.

With Saint Francis and Saint Clare, we praise You for all creation and for all the efforts being made to respect Your work. As all creation “has been groaning in travail until now,” may we, and brothers and sisters of Francis and Clare, be your faithful instruments for “creation to be set free from its bondage and decay, to obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God,” and participate in your Love and Life. Amen.

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