Thanks be to God, in many places, especially here in the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding. With more than half of the population vaccinated, and new infection cases dwindling, people are regaining their confidence to resume many activities they may have taken for granted before the pandemic robbed them of many freedoms.
Whether we are attending Mass in person or deciding to venture further from home, many of us can add adventure back to our to-do lists.
Just a few days ago, the European Union announced that it will be easing restrictions on international travelers. While details are still not clear, in general, vaccinated tourists who enter the EU from countries that have the pandemic under control, will no longer be required to quarantine or be tested for COVID-19.
That news opens the door for many to plan on embarking on a diocesan pilgrimage.
When visiting the famous pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela in Spain in 2010, Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI commented on the nature of what a pilgrimage is:
“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art, or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where He has revealed himself, where His grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.
“Above all, Christians go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to the places associated with the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection. They go to Rome, the city of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, and also to Compostela, which, associated with the memory of Saint James, has welcomed pilgrims from throughout the world who desire to strengthen their spirit with the Apostles’ witness of faith and love.”
Yes, to go on a pilgrimage is to go on a journey of faith, a journey in which, by travel, one can go to encounter God and the friends of God. When you go on a pilgrimage, you can encounter the saints, whose relics grace so many of the churches of Europe. When you go on pilgrimage, you can encounter unique and special liturgies, learn more about particular religious devotions, and encounter unique opportunities to grow in your faith.
On a pilgrimage, people can meet some other wonderful women and men of faith who can inspire us to greater holiness. You can hear some excellent, faith-filled, and thought-provoking homilies from the bishops or priests who serve as chaplains on the journey.
Above all else, as Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI reminded us, a pilgrimage takes us away from our everyday life to a special place where we might more easily encounter the Lord.
As pointed out in the article on page 15 of this edition, The Diocese of Brooklyn is touting pilgrimages in the near future. Those who are able should consider joining one!
As we begin to put the pandemic behind us, let us allow adventure to come into our lives once again.