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Pilgrimage is an inspiring journey
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placeholder November 9, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA

Revs. Jim Sullivan, Augustine Joseph and Lawrence D'Anjou, who accompanied the pilgrims, enjoy a light moment at a restaurant in France.
Courtesy photo

Pilgrimage is an inspiring journey of discovery

Rev. Augustine Joseph

Human life is a journey, from birth to death, through "the seven ages of [humanity];" a journey that may be meaningless to some, one of sorrow and suffering for others and of joy, hope and adventure yet for others.

Life of a Christian, too, is a journey. However, it could be more meaningful, focused and hopeful in spite of the sufferings, trials and tribulations that come our way because it is a journey to Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Christ makes all the difference as it makes us partakers of the heavenly glory that awaits us at the end of our journey.

Pilgrimage is a journey, a journey of exalted purpose or moral meaning. It is a mirror image of our Christian life. Our Marian pilgrimage (Oct. 5-15) was no exception; it really helped us to experience this "journey of life."

Our first stop was Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, where we briefly visited some of the historical landmarks and the tomb of Vasco de Gama, who rediscovered the sea-route to India from Europe that was lost after the Muslim conquests of the Middle East.

En route to Fatima we stopped in Santarem, the Church of the Eucharistic Miracle and celebrated Holy Mass there. The miracle occurred during the early part of the 13th century; the consecrated host began to bleed in the hands of a woman who had the intention of misusing it. The miracle was brought to the attention of the church authorities. The host is enshrined in its miraculous crystal pyx (container) in a silver monstrance and placed on display above the tabernacle of the church.

In Fatima and Lourdes we celebrated Holy Mass at the Chapel of the Apparitions, and took part in the processions and other devotional practices. We visited the homes of the visionaries and prayed for families, friends and members of our parishes and remembered all those who requested our prayers. It need not be said that there were throngs of pilgrims milling around those two holy places!

The church of Santiago de Compostela has been for many centuries a place of pilgrimages. People from all over Europe often walked on foot the "routes of St. James." Some of us did a few miles on foot to walk the walk.

In Paris we celebrated Holy Mass at the miraculous medal Shrine of St. Catherine Laboure, visited the shrine of St. Vincent De Paul and toured the historical sites of the French capital. A visit to Sacre Coeur (Church of the Sacred Heart) kind of concluded the pilgrimage. Hundreds and thousands of people visit Sacre Coeur. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, there is a perpetual adoration with Blessed Sacrament exposed on the main altar of the Church. Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted in the Basilica since 1885. It was refreshing to spend a short time in adoration as our pilgrimage was winding down.

It appears to be more than a coincidence that our Marian Pilgrimage officially began with the miracle of the Holy Eucharist (Santarem) and concluded with the adoration of the Holy Eucharist (Sacre Coeur). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Eucharist is the source and submit of our ecclesial life" (CCC 1327). "In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."

Mary was leading us to Jesus. Holy Eucharist and Mary are the two pillars of our faith. If a Christian is anchored to these two pillars it is difficult to go wrong; it is possible to weather the storms of life and still be standing.

What impressed me most was the faith of the pilgrims (83) themselves. Everyone seemed to get on well with everyone else. There was a unity of purpose that gave cohesion and harmony to the group. Members participated devoutly in prayers, Holy Masses and other spiritual exercises. Many in the group experienced spiritual renewal as the ancient faith came alive in those holy places. Those monuments, grottoes and holy places eloquently witness to the "faith of our fathers and mothers." They invite us, challenge us and even compel us to step out of ourselves and experience the presence of God.

Our faith so ancient, yet so new, lives in the hearts of each human person. Pilgrimage is a journey of discovery, a discovery of oneself, of others and ultimately of God. Although it is true that God is not only found in the ancient monuments or cathedrals, yet they are awe-inspiring and a testimony to human efforts to transcend and touch the divine.

Kudos to The Catholic Voice and Unitours Inc. for their great organization and planning of the pilgrimage. It was a smooth sail with excellent weather and far few inconveniences.

(Father Augustine Joseph is parochial administrator at St. Augustine Parish in Oakland.)

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