By Judith Costello
When we think of “vacation” we often imagine heading for the beach or the mountains to relax and unwind, while the kids are pleasantly occupied with new outdoor distractions. But sometimes, what we really need is “soul liberation!” Our souls, perhaps more than our bodies, need the opportunity to SOAR by experiencing holy places.
Why not consider a pilgrimage for you and / or the entire family? Sound unusual? Maybe, but who among us couldn’t use a little more faith and a lot more peace?
Think of a Pilgrimage as a vacation with purpose! Imagine a travel experience that brings you;
|:: Closer to God||:: Answers to your questions|
|:: An occasion to release heartache & worries||:: An opportunity to learn|
|:: Time for prayer – For others – For Healing||:: Thanks|
|:: Up close with diverse cultures||:: Change|
|:: Around the world to Holy Places||:: Joy|
I never thought much about this idea until 2006 when my mom asked me to go with her to Medjugorje, a little town where the Blessed Mother appeared to six children beginning in 1981. This tiny town in Bosnia Herzegovina is nestled in the mountains of an area that has been torn by war and ethnic / religious persecutions in the not-too-distant past. Yet, we traveled safely and in comfort through a Catholic pilgrimage organization called 206Tours (www.206Tours.com). Our small group was led by a priest and many amazing things happened. In fact it was a life changing experience!
What characterized that pilgrimage for me, was the powerful sense of “peace” that lasted a long time. Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you” and He hands out generous portions to people who travel for the purpose of refreshing their souls!
On our pilgrimage, I ended up missing my flight from Zurich to Washington, DC. I was routed through Chicago instead. Since I didn’t have a Chicago to Albuquerque ticket, I was a “problem” for the airlines. I remember walking quickly through the huge airport going from one counter to the other. I had a rosary in my hand and I was praying all the time. Amazingly, doors opened. Grouchy, dismissive clerks changed their outlook. And through the turmoil of such lengthy travels, I felt at peace!
We visited a refugee camp, climbed a mountain, saw heroism demonstrated by people who helped strangers in need. We went to huge outdoor Masses where flags waved from every country in the world. We saw streets crowded with teenagers carrying rosaries and candles. People were reverent all the time. Several sick people had come seeking miracles. I’m sure some happened.
Ever since that trip, I keep hearing about people who are taking trips to Lourdes, Fatima, Rome and the Holy Lands. I would love to take a trip to Poland and walk in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II who has had a big impact on our family.
As I looked through the various new pilgrimage offerings I saw so many trips worth taking. For example, a 206Tours new pilgrimage in Rome that focuses on the lives of several “Blessed” faith heroes. And they also offer a “walking tour” following The Way of St. James as he traveled in Spain. The concept of this famous trail is a part of an inspiring new movie called “The Way.” There are tours to Ireland to walk in the footsteps of St. Patrick and a tour to Mexico to see where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared.
My soul feels a longing…
To be lifted up by the saints who surely stay close to guard and guide the holy places, is to feel like you’re gliding with an eagle above the concerns and turmoil of the world. There is nothing more beautiful or more refreshing.