Notice I said a pilgrimage, not a vacation. I expect the week to be equally as fun and relaxing as a vacation but I will try to keep in mind some practical differences. For starters, the destination for a pilgrimage is a sacred site or someplace that has spiritual significance, even if it is personal.
A pilgrim also is expected to spend more extensive time in prayer – both in preparation of the journey and during the travels. I had ordered some books and did some research on the sacred sites we planned to visit and I included a prayer novena (a nine-day prayer) as part of my preparation for trip. It’s good for a pilgrim to have a proper mindset and spirit before setting off.
If you've ever visited a sacred place you probably have noticed the difference too between pilgrims and tourists. Tourists tend to be more impatient and hurried – trying to snap off a few quick photos so they can get to the gift-shop and head to another destination to check-off on their “to-see list.” Pilgrims, on the other hand, linger and will try to find a spot where they can pray alone and not be distracted. For the pilgrim, there is no place more important that they need to be.
Pilgrims also should try not to get frustrated if there are delays, itinerary changes, or bad weather. They should try to recognize that the Holy Spirit is the guide and is speaking and revealing truths to them even in the more difficult or unexpected moments. Catholic theologian Fr. Virgil Elizondo once said, “It is crucial to ‘let oneself go’ in order to be disposed to the action of God during the pilgrimage.”
Pilgrims also should try not to be disappointed if the site does not look as impressive as it did on the flyer or on the internet. They come not so much for the spectacle but more for the invisible movements of God's grace.
Pilgrims also should be attentive to others. Often when I am on vacation I try to get away from people or to avoid crowds. On a pilgrimage I watch to see who God might put in my path – maybe a fellow pilgrim or an angel-like messenger from God with a word or insight for me.
So that's the plan anyhow. Where are we going? The destination is Lake George in upstate New York. We're going to visit Archbishop Flynn who spends part of his summers there. He is the one who ordained us all. We might scale a mountain together. Also we plan to visit the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, the Shrine of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, and maybe also the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
We’ll see if I can be a good pilgrim. I pray that I can return a better priest and ready for the next ten years. See you soon!