Travel is trending and seems on everyone’s list be it a bucket list. It may be a vacation, a weekend, or an ongoing adventure, travel is everywhere. People are looking at fulfilling dreams, and creating memories. There is a shift to experience now. It has been building lately and you see it everywhere. An example is the Tiny house where people live in a small little place in order that they may have a larger life. To experience is to live! Travel is on the minds and thoughts of many. Yet, there is something else out there in the travel world.Many are nowjust discovering the concept of meaningful travel. For centuries it was “The Pilgrimage”.
The pilgrimage is a way of travel in that you make religious journey. It can be local to a place that is sacred, holy and or prayerful. It could also be a longer journey to a destination that is farther. The purpose and meaning of a pilgrimage are different for each. Some go to ask for heavenly aid. Some go to become closer and to know God better, and some to venerate or give thanks. My journeys this year are filled with aspects of each .
I feel as though it might be a lost art and this is at a true detriment to our souls. To begin a journey that is a pilgrimage it to step outside a comfort zone of your life. It could mean stepping outside of one’s selfin the aspect of prayer. Or perhaps in the aspect of comfort, it can even be stepping outside of your comfort area with Christ. Taking him out of the corner of your life you have placed him and bringing him to the forefront. It is not comfortable but the gifts are immense. To experience a pilgrimage is to experience LIFE.
When we lose the aspect of pilgrimage we lose a great gift that countless Christians before us have given us. Since the death of Christ, Christians have been making pilgrimages to holy places. It has been part of who we are. Yet I somehow feel we have somewhat lost it. It makes me sad. So I am using this Jubilee Year of Mercy to revive a little of that pilgrimage spirit. What a great invitation and perfect time to experience it.
The Dynamic Catholic describes it like this “The Year of Mercy is an invitation—an invitation to love, kindness, and unbounded generosity. Pope Francis is offering you the opportunity to encounter the incredible mercy of God. Encountering mercy means encountering God. It can transform your life, your relationships, your work, and your ability to embrace and experience all of life.”
My first pilgrimage this year was to experience Grand Catholic Italy. I was able to experience not only the “Holy Doors” in Rome but throughout Italy. I was able to see and walk in places millions of Christians have before me. I was able to witness the resting places of great saints who have gone before me. I was able to witness my own faith in the pilgrimage journey in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
During a Jubilee year for the church the Holy Doors are open. This only happens in increments of 25 to 50 years and for most a once in a lifetime journey. It is a complete gift we have been given. I notice though many do not quite understand what is open for us during this year. It’s perhaps been set aside and filed away. My prayer is many will discover what this means and they too make a pilgrimage.
I encourage you to blow open the windows of your comfortable life and seek him who seeks you. Go on a journey, experience a pilgrimage! Perhaps, like me you will discover meaningful travel and it will change your life.
Your life is forever altered by one moment in time.
The Holy Doors a different style of Travel
The timing is not perfect but I finally sit down to write this while sitting in the airport. I am waiting on my next flight and my reflection is a little different here. The airport is busy and loud and not a great time for a personal reflection. There are so many thoughts coming and I am sorting them within the noisiness of the world. It seems in my life most of the time that noisiness never ceases. So it is in this moment I choose to tell of my journey.
It’s a different story and not my normal travel writing yet I feel it’s important. So for those who care to join me this story will tell of a different journey a true pilgrimage and a journey more of self.
My journey to the Holy Doors had been planned and scheduled as soon as the Jubilee Year had been announced. It was going to be a “Year of Mercy”. The announcement for me was inspiring and I so needed it and it drew me in. There was a pulling towards it. That strong tug and pull towards “A Year of Mercy”. It was as if I needed a year of mercy to allow me to reflect on the past two years. To find some type of sanity in this crazy thing that had become my life. So different from my perfect little life I had before. The messiness bleeds into everything now and it is part of who I am. So in this year, in this Jubilee Year I received from the Lord what I needed. I needed mercy, I needed time, I needed to hear the doors were open and all I had to do was walk across the threshold. The call was there. Thank God I was listening.
It was like I needed to hear the words come, come to me I am here and I am waiting for YOU. No not in the way many think about the concept of mercy but it was clear to me. It was just like the words spoken to the Samaritan woman “If you knew the gift of God”. I needed to re-discover the gift. I needed to rediscover my faith in the aspect of loss. So a pilgrimage during the year of Mercy was what I needed.
As soon as the Jubilee Year was proclaimed I immediately started making plans for the journey. I gathered together a group and I was set to make a pilgrimage. It always seems that my own personality and nature does not wait around. I move and go forward no matter what I just keep moving forward. I have always been that way and this was no different. Not a lot of time to think about it just plan and get myself there.
So preparations made the journey began. I am not sure I took a lot of time to gather my thoughts on what I would feel walking through those first doors. I believe when I decided to go it was to bring not only myself but to bring my child through those doors. I carried all my loss with me. All the lost dreams I had for my child, all the lost hopes you carry for your children, and all the pain you feel. It’s a large burden you carry at times it takes a toll. This was everything I was bringing with me. I was going to make sure I walked through those doors with my beautiful daughter. She would be in my thoughts, prayers and in my heart. I was walking to the font of mercy that is waiting for all people of faith.
When you suffer a loss especially a loss of a child by suicide your life is completely and utterly changed. It is turned upside down, inside out, and most every other direction. The path you were on before is forever altered. Your dreams have been shattered and time is in a flux. Its as if time is moving and stagnant at the same time. At times it even moves ahead leaving you behind. It’s as if you are stuck in the present and the past at the same time and each is tearing at you and pulling you back and forth. Your life it forever altered by that one moment.
It’s a journey you take a journey through loss, grief, hope, and most of all a journey of Mercy. The Mercy of Christ as he walks with you on the path you have. Most of the time you feel as if he is the only one with you. He is the only one that understands your sorrow that sometimes is so strong it can almost suffocate you. He is the one there when people shy away because death makes them uncomfortable. He is the one there as the words can never come for friends because they can never understand so they stay away. He is the one that is there when you blame yourself. You know he is the one, the only one. You live out each day with the words “Jesus I trust in you”.
For me in a year of mercy it was important for me to be able to experience the Holy Doors. I needed to come to the font of mercy. To come to the threshold to walk through those doors and hope for healing the healing of my soul. In the only place that can provide it the arms that have been there the whole time. This is what the journey to the Holy Doors meant for me. This is what I had come to understand in planning my own pilgrimage.
What I was not prepared for was the overwhelming aspect of Rome. I was not prepared for the first doors and what exactly was happening. I could not quite hear the guide and was unsure of what was actually transpiring. I was rushed and hurried and my moment of prayer was brief but pleading. An internal pleading with God for mercy, for mercy for my own soul and that of my child. Mercy for failing her. It’s a concept many will not understand and is complete raw emotion. It’s the life of the soul of a parent who has lost a child by suicide. It is like a battlefield as it is war torn and often tortured. The mind is powerful and after you experience a death like suicide it often plays tricks on you. The tricks are guilt, blame, and always what ifs. They can eat your alive if you let them.
On the outside you look fine. Most of the time you act fine but on the inside there is an inner battle going on. It is a battlefield of guilt, pain, loss and remorse. There is often a wave almost at times like a tidal wave of emotion going through you. You are often at times on the edge of sanity.
Other’s never know the battle that rages just below the surface. It’s comes and goes as you are working through the grief process each at their own pace and time.
So the pilgrimage was for me something different. It’s a different style of travel. Each persons journey on a pilgrimage is different. Each in turn may experience reflections that are different. Yet, the basis of this type of journey is a religious and prayerful journey. It is where you search for some spiritual or moral significance. For me this journey was about mercy and healing. The healing of a mother, the healing of a wife, the healing of a daughter, the healing of a sister, an aunt, a friend.
As I approached my first door there was an overwhelming sense of awe. It was completely overwhelming in the aspect of the majesty of the church. You realize walking through just how small you are in the whole world, and then you see the vast scale of the church. You discover the many different people of all nations and nationalities. They are all part of the church the world wide church.
There I was standing at the doors of Saint Peter’s Basilica and I could not focus. It was as if all the noise the people the rush of adrenaline was completely taking over.
A moment of reflection was finally available. I was able to take a moment and pray for all those who were journeying with me and those who asked for prayers. I stood there and prayed for myself and prayed for my child. It was a hurried moment a rushed moment but it was there. I will never be able to fully enter into a quiet prayer during this journey. There would be far too many emotions and too many distractions. I would find stolen moments of time. It was here during these fleeting moments it was me and God. Especially the times as I stopped along the way and lit candles for my child. There would be moments in conversations with the good people. Those that journeyed with me. The sharing of laughter, hopes, and dreams as each of us made our own pilgrimage. For some it was a vacation, for others prayer, perhaps both to some also. I sat with them and I learned a little about each person. I enjoyed their stories, I prayed with them, and I laughed with them.
Perhaps this was what I was meant to discover on my pilgrimage through the Holy Doors. It was his people. Each one bringing their own losses, hopes, and dreams. Maybe I was supposed to see his people and through my own brokenness go forth with love. Because the healing I was searching for the mercy I was searching for comes from LOVE. The love of humanity in all of its brokenness, and its beauty. Everything has not been revealed yet and I continue to reflect as I continue this year of mercy.
So right now as I look back at my journey to Rome and my pilgrimage. I continue to HOPE because isn’t that what the Holy Doors represent? Hope. It’s the hope of every human being. All the dreams, the successes, the failures, and the mercy the mercy which each one of us hopes to embrace. Despite the noisiness. Despite the abrasiveness of the world we can take a moment even if it is small and experience Christ and see HOPE.
If you would like me to help you plan your own pilgrimage I would love to help you. Please use the form below and let me know what you are looking for.