If you have spent even a small amount of time studying the basics of church history, you know that the twelve apostles covered a rather expansive amount of ground following the initial wave of persecution in 62 AD. Before the last of the apostles (John) died in AD 100, the Gospel had been spread through most of the Roman Empire and even beyond into the outlying people groups. The routes taken were numerous and the miles walked incredible. Paul, by himself, covered hundreds of miles during his three primary missionary journeys. Thomas was confirmed to have gone as far as India and rumored to have preached in China. While the lines between what is confirmed and what is rumored tend to blur when looking into the apostles’ journeys, today we have the opportunity to walk some of the paths that our forerunners traveled and experience glimpses of the annointings they carried.
Watching some movies tends to bring out the travel bug in many of us. Older movies such as “the Sound of Music”, or newer ones as well, or perhaps the popular “Rick Steve’s Europe” series. You are on this blog for one of two reasons, either you like to travel or you are interested in visiting some particular shrine or discovering more about Catholic culture in other places. Probably it is both.
How often do you stop and reflect? In the rush of a fast-paced society, how frequently does a word or phrase slacken your pace, or perhaps even bring you to a full halt? Every day, I work on improving the experience of pilgrims traveling The Way of St. James. I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve spoken the name of this historic route over the last few months. But this morning, as I read over route details for the hundredth time, perusing hotel schedules, tour guides, and trip agendas, a thought occurred to me that ground my day to an unexpected halt. I realized, rather suddenly, that I knew virtually nothing about St. James!
What a question….sound familiar? How often have you heard this comment after excitedly announcing your decision to travel to a certain destination? It seems that as soon as you make plans to visit somewhere then things start to happen: a bombing, an earthquake, or the local populace going on strike. And of course the media is all over whatever sensational news there might be. That’s how they make their living!
Well, having been in that position more than once, here is how the conversation usually goes:
Click here to view the video Mass from the Oblate Grotto in San Antonio, Texas. This replica of the Lourdes grotto is one of the most visited places for Catholics in the state of Texas.
For more information about the shrine click here to go to our webpage on the Catholic Travel Guide website. It is open daily to visitors from all over, but is also a place of worship for locals as well.
In the video you will see Catholic artist Tobin Pilotte with his wife and six beautiful children taking up the gifts. Isn’t it refreshing to see young Catholics bringing more than 1.6 children in to the world? One of the tenets of our Faith is that children are a gift from God, not an economic and ecological burden.
One of the criticisms of travel review websites is that they can be manipulated by people to either build up their own reputation or tear down the reputation of a competitor. We are sure that most of these websites do their best to avoid this happening since their reputation (and their income) derives from people trusting that the information provided on their site is honest and accurate.
Still, they can be manipulated. We want to pass on an article written by Arthur Frommer, the venerable travel guide publisher about a restaurant that got great reviews for a period of several months on a major travel review website despite the fact that it did not exist.
So by all means visit those travel review websites. They will give you a general idea if an attraction, restaurant or tour company is reliable….just don’t use that as your only resource. Do some additional research.
This is why we offer tips on how to choose a Catholic tour company, ways to check on a company’s reputation and how to evaluate an itinerary on our main website. It will help greatly if you can make an informed decision based on solid information from more than one source.
A week ago, Diana von Glahn of The Faithful Traveler contacted me. She wanted to know if I was interested in traveling to Jordan with other members of the press. She would pass my contact information along to key organizers of a Jordan Religious Press Tour if I was interested.
Are you kidding me? Of course I said yes.
Within one week, I had filled out the application and received word that I was chosen to go to Jordan and visit key sites from April 9 to April 19. Next month.
And I had been lamenting that I would have to wait until August for the Catholic Press Association pilgrimage to Poland before I would be making my next trip! But God has a way of filling our cup to overflowing and taking us places we never dreamed we would be able to go. Abraham learned that late in life. So did Moses. And now, at fifty, I am feeling the call to go … to meet my Lord in many places.
So, April is Jordan–Eastern Holy Land.
August, Poland–Sts. Faustina, John Paul II, & Maximilian Kolbe
November, Israel & Bethlehem–Holy Land.
December, Mexico–Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Have I mentioned lately that I love pilgrimages, and travel writing about places of faith is right up there at the top of my “favorite things” list? I can stay up until two in the morning writing while on pilgrimage (which I do almost every night) and still get up for a six o’clock wake-up and a day of prayer at holy places. That’s grace. At home, I need a solid eight-hour night.
Well, the official itinerary arrived just a few days after I submitted the application. I eagerly read through each day’s events.
By day four, I had to stop reading. I was overwhelmed by the gift that was unfolding before my eyes:
“Leave Amman behind to travel south toward the wilderness on the eastern banks of the River Jordan known as Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan. According to the Bible, it was here that the prophet Elijah ascended to heaven on a chariot of fire, and where John the Baptist came centuries later preaching and baptizing in the spirit of Elijah“.
Then, drive a short distance to Mount Nebo, where the Bible says Moses climbed after his long Exodus journey to see the land he would never enter, and where he was buried nearby by God himself.”
I slipped out of my chair and knelt beside my office desk. My heart was full, and prayers of gratitude seemed the only appropriate response.
I have been working out to meet the physical demands of making pilgrimages. I have increased the incline of the treadmill when I work out, setting the incline as steep as I can handle because the itinerary says we will have the opportunity to climb Mount Nebo, if we feel we can handle the hike up the mountain.
I’m going to do it. So it is time to get into even better shape.
Through words, I will take you back to those moments in salvation history.
I’m going to Jordan.
You come, too.
Denise is a convert to the Catholic Church. She is the daughter of a Protestant minister. In 2005, she converted to Catholicism after reading books by Carmelite saints. Her syndicated column called Catholic by Grace has been published in 63 diocesan newspapers. She has also written for Catholic magazines and appeared on EWTN’s Journey Home and Women of Grace. She is a Catholic travel writer and pilgrimage leader with Select International Tours and Cruises. Her first book is entitled Gifts of the Visitation and explores the Blessed Mother’s journey from Nazareth to Ein Kerem where she remained with St. Elizabeth for three months prior to the birth of St. John the Baptist. Website: denisebossert.com
Denise Bossert, Catholic columnist & author
The importance of Guidebooks
It was recently revealed that the venerable “Frommer’s” travel guides were purchased by Google and soon thereafter it was announced that they would discontinue publishing the travel guides in book form.
In the age of the internet, many people get their information from websites such as ours. That is a good thing since there is such a wide range of sites out there, but we caution against relying on websites alone (even this one).
For starters, guide books are a great planning tool before you set out on your travels. The better ones are generally written from first-hand experience. And they often go in to more detail than general travel websites.