By Barb Arland-Fye
When I left the Quad-City Times 14 years ago my colleagues created a mock front page full of humor, puns and photos related to my Catholicism. In one photo, a wind-blown Pope John Paul II appears to be riding in a boat with me at the steering wheel. A “mug shot” of Blessed Teresa also appears, with the caption “Beloved Mother Teresa … Barb’s hero.”
The journalists may have been joshing, but it’s true that Mother Teresa has long been my hero. That’s why I’m looking forward to attending the Sept. 4 Mass in Rome during which she will be canonized a saint. This Mass promises to be one of many special elements of The Catholic Messenger Pilgrimage to Italy, an eight-day journey tailored to this Year of Mercy.
Please consider joining me and diocesan priest Father Marty Goetz, our spiritual leader for the Aug. 30-Sept. 6 pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. I first got to know Fr. Marty when he served as vocations director for the Davenport Diocese. His enthusiasm, sense of humor and commitment to the church was energizing. He now serves as pastor of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington, and has already been to Rome twice this year! Having never been to Rome or Assisi and being directionally challenged, I am grateful that Fr. Marty knows his way around the Eternal City! But the biggest bonus: he will celebrate Mass with us.
Blessed Teresa’s canonization is likely to be the highlight, but we’ll also pass through the four Holy Doors in Rome – a unique privilege because of the Year of Mercy – and visit St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square. We’ll stop to pray at the tomb of St. John Paul II and visit the Catacombs to see where the early Christians prayed in secret and buried their dead. We’ll tour the ancient ruins of the Coliseum, see the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon, and enjoy a day of sight-seeing in Rome at our leisure. In Assisi, we’ll see the tomb of St. Francis, the crypt of St. Clare and the chapel where St. Francis consecrated St. Clare. Fr. Marty said he’s looking forward to his first visit to Assisi. I can’t wait to walk where St. Francis preached the Gospel by his actions.
Christians, throughout history, “have always walked to celebrate their faith in places that indicate a memory of the Lord or in sites representing important moments in the history of the Church,” St. John Paul II once said. “They have come to shrines honoring the Mother of God and to those that keep the example of the saints alive.” (The Pilgrimage in the Great Jubilee, April 11, 1998, No. 2.)
Bishop Michael Mulvey, a World Youth Day alumnus offers some compelling thoughts about pilgrimages as well. “Many times as we live the routine of our daily lives, we forget about the internal movement that is happening through our faith in Jesus Christ. A pilgrimage is not only a physical journey, but an internal movement of faith moving toward a greater reality. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.” (http://tinyurl.com/q3f5ygv.)
Select Internationals Tours has planned our itinerary and will provide an English-speaking tour manager for our pilgrimage. The travel agency focuses on the spiritual aspect of each destination, but also likes to include new experiences including food and wine tastings and participation in local cultural events.
For more information about the pilgrimage, contact Susan Prendergast at (800) 842-4842 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit Select International Tours’ website: www.selectinternationaltours.com.
I anticipate writing a sequel to that mock front page, the fruits of our pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at email@example.com.)