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placeholder January 4, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA

Father Jayson Landeza with the Florence cathedral in the background.

Count on a pilgrimage to enrich your spiritual life

One of the most personally enriching experiences of my life was the opportunity to spend four months at the Pontifical North American College (the U.S. seminary at The Vatican) in Rome, Italy. This was part of a year-long sabbatical that I took in 2009-2010.

Pope Francis arrives outside the Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, in Florence, Italy, Nov. 10. Pope Francis attended a meeting of Italy's bishops and cardinals in the Duomo during a one-day visit. The pope also met young people and celebrated Mass at a soccer stadium.
Paul Haring/CNS

I have been asked to serve as one of the spiritual guides in the upcoming "Year of Mercy Italy Pilgrimage." When I looked over the itinerary for the trip in October, I was excited to see that many of the locations listed were places that I had visited on my sabbatical.

What became clear to me was that many of these sites were not only historical places, but were locales that had deep spiritual significance throughout the centuries. The lives of the faithful were deeply touched by their encounter with these pilgrimage destinations.

To this very day, the faithful are drawn to the spiritual power which emanate from these sites. As I look at the locations that will be visited during the Year of Mercy Italy Pilgrimage, I recall how I was moved by the way God had worked in the lives of the faithful who worshipped in these churches throughout history.

I was deeply moved and fascinated by the Duomo (the cathedral) in Florence. I found myself walking around it a number of times, and spending quite some time not only exploring its interior, but drawn to the many people who gathered in front of the Duomo. It took nearly 140 years for the cathedral project to be completed, and it remains one of the largest and most significant churches in Europe.

Perhaps it was that note of history, combined with the centuries of pilgrims and tourists, that energizes the Duomo to this present day, that moved me spiritually as I explored, as both pilgrim and tourist, this beautiful structure.

Florence was one of the many places in Italy that I visited during my four months at The Vatican. I have many more memories and stories of faith that characterized those spiritual sites, many of those places we will be visiting on the Year of Mercy Italy Pilgrimage.

If you are able to do so, please consider joining us on this particular path of walking in this Year of Mercy. I guarantee that you will find your spiritual life enriched by this unique experience.

(Father Jayson Landeza is pastor at St. Benedict Church in Oakland.)

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