By Fr. Mike Boutin
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways, And that we may walk in His paths. Isaiah 2:3
Take a virtual pilgrimage to Rome, here!
I'm leaving on a pilgrimage to Italy this week with a group of twenty parishioners. We're heading to Rome, Assisi, Florence, Venice, Siena, and the Lakes Region. We'll be visiting the shrines of holy people like Francis of Assisi, and Catherine of Siena, and celebrating Mass at the tombs of saints and martyrs of all the centuries of Christian history. If you want to read more about my pilgrimage to Italy, be sure to check out my blog, Men in Black, on the Patheos site.
Some people ask me, "Why do you need to run all over the world to find God? Isn't he already in your heart?" The purpose of pilgrimage isn't to "find" God, as if somehow I had lost God in the first place. Instead, the point of pilgrimages, in the words of one of my favorite quotes, "is not to arrive but to return home laden with pollen you shall work up into honey the mind feeds on" (R.S. Thomas).
Pilgrimage is a metaphor for life itself: we are on a journey back to the loving embrace of God. On the journey, we encounter the surprises, the unexpected, and the storms. But when we return home, having lived through it all, we experience home in a new way, through new eyes, with new perspective and insight.
For two weeks, I'll encounter shrines and sunrises....mountains and misfortune...cathedrals and castles...food and fun...prayer and passion...All of it and more is the glory of Italy, and the wonder of Catholicism as it lives and breathes in the Eternal City and all over Italy's landscape. But when I return home, to the humdrum and the routine, and my prayer becomes dry, or my life too predictable, my memory and my imagination can return me to the hills of Tuscany, or the shrine of St. Anthony of Padua, or quiet prayer by Lake Como....
Maybe you don't have the luxury of a pilgrimage to Italy....but now, travel back to a place in time that is filled with quiet, and light, and peace....and there remember what it means to be loved, and accepted, and known by God as you are....
Father Mike Boutin is the co-pastor of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Walpole, MA, and travels widely, leading pilgrimages throughout the world to various Catholic religious sites. He is a frequent speaker on liturgy, music, spirituality, and pastoral ministry.