National Catholic Register

Opinion

Vacationing Pilgrims

BY Father Owen Kearns, LC

July 4-17, 2010 Issue | Posted 6/28/10 at 12:16 PM

 

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

So said St. Augustine, and in a time when journeying just to the next town entailed far more work than leisure.

In ages past, visiting a foreign land often meant risking your life at sea. Yet many Catholics took the risk, making pilgrimages for the sake of souls. In our day almost the entire world is safely within a few hours’ reach.

During his 2007 summer vacation in northern Italy, Pope Benedict pointed out that, as Christians, we appreciate vacation time not only as a period of relaxation but also as a chance to “nourish the spirit through greater space for prayer and meditation, to grow in a personal relationship with Christ and to conform ourselves ever more closely to his teaching.”

Not every vacation has to be a pilgrimage, but “pilgrimage moments” can be woven into every vacation. A Catholic church or shrine is rarely so far away that you can’t make a weekday Mass, for example. And there’s no better place than a deliberate detour from the holiday road for experiencing Sunday Mass in a different language, culture or rite than your own.

If you haven’t yet picked a destination, you might log on to NCRegister.com and click the “Travel” tab. This will allow you to scroll through our recent travelogue features for ideas. Or use the “Search” function to see if we’ve covered a Catholic site you’re considering. Chances are, we have: Our online archives, accessible only to Register subscribers, date back to 2000. We’ve covered pretty much every sight Catholic travelers would want to see.

This vacation season, may St. Augustine intercede to guide you to a worthwhile “next page” — someplace God can use to refresh you on your lifelong pilgrimage toward heaven. Even if you can’t afford to voyage any farther than the next town over, be sure of my prayers on your behalf for safe travels and great graces.