When we travel to a new country or city, we must consider if we are there as tourists or pilgrims. A pilgrim is more intentional in how they approach their travels — taking time to truly experience a place, pray, and find God. This past summer, a group of more than 40 pilgrims from several of our area parishes made a pilgrimage to Italy, led by Fr. Patrick Keane and coordinated by 206 Tours. Four from Our Lady of Lourdes experienced the Shrines of Italy tour.
Having been to Italy nine times, this was Fr. Pat’s second time on this particular tour.
“We prayed the Rosary daily on the bus, and everyone there had the disposition of a pilgrim and not a tourist,” he says. “Everyone was very committed to their faith and enjoyed the daily Masses and times for prayer.”
Fr. Pat also makes the important distinction between a pilgrim and a tourist — each visits a place with a different goal.
“A tourist will take things — pictures, experiences, information — while a pilgrim leaves behind prayers and petitions,” he says. “A tourist might complain about inconveniences, while a pilgrim embraces the unexpected and is grateful for what they have and doesn’t lament over what they want.”
The group traveled to Rome, Assisi, Siena, San Giovanni Rotondo, Gubbio, Florence, Padua and Venice. Fr. Pat says a highlight is always St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and he personally enjoys Assisi and Siena the most.
“I think that many people enjoyed Assisi because of its beauty and peace,” he says.
Italy stands out, of course, for its role in the Catholic faith. Yet, it also stands out for the number of saints whose bodies one can visit. The group was in the corporeal presence of St. Pio, St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Catherine of Siena, Blessed Carlo Acutis, St. Anthony of Padua, and many others. Fr. Pat brought back nine first-class relics of saints. Our Lady of Lourdes is now the custodian of 66 first-class relics.
The group included seven teenagers and two families with three generations on the trip. The group enjoyed the opportunity during each meal to get to know one another better. Fr. Pat appreciates that they traveled with such a great group, as the pilgrims built new friendships. Those relationships are a favorite part of a pilgrimage for Fr. Pat.
“The bond that quickly forms between people of faith who previously didn’t know each other, but are sharing and processing through the same incredible experiences — it’s really striking,” he says.
The group also took part in an outdoor procession of thousands with a statue of Our Lady and the Child Jesus around the basilica where Padre Pio is interred.
The pilgrims experienced some very hot weather, but Fr. Pat says that added to the element of suffering with our Lord on pilgrimage. In the heat, they prayed at the outdoor Stations of the Cross in San Giovanni Rotondo.
Be sure to watch the bulletin for information about the May 2024 pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Fr. Pat would love to lead future pilgrimages to Greece, as well as to Italy once again.