Published September 22, 2017 | En Español
Just last week, I received a photo from three fellows from the Archdiocese of Atlanta who are currently in the Holy Land on a pilgrimage. Kieran Quinn, Michael Mohr and Chuck Thibaudeau were standing at the Sea of Galilee in the photo, perhaps near the very place where Jesus summoned the first of his disciples. Whether those first disciples looked anything like our three pilgrims is still an open question. But it is nice to know that we live in a world where the words and the events of sacred Scripture are easily accessible with only a transatlantic flight.
Travel makes the world of the Bible a really close experience for many of us.
The son of another friend of mine, who now works for an Atlanta firm that will soon send him on a business trip to Portugal, may also work in a weekend trip to Fatima. Another friend recently told me that he and his wife are planning a trip to Rome and wanted to know if I can recommend any sights that they should take in during their visit. We now live in a world where famous places of faith are available to many of us who may never have thought that the lessons we heard from Scripture or learned about in our history of religion classes would be so easily accessible.
The people of an earlier age could only turn to books, art and perhaps photographs to bring them close to the reality of Scripture or catechisms.
Seeing the actual locations of the events of faith should remind us that we can easily embellish many of them beyond what they might originally have been. Catholics have constructed magnificent basilicas at Lourdes and Fatima. The original visits of the Blessed Mother at Lourdes took place in a cave-like grotto before a young woman who was not very well educated but was filled with faith. Our Heavenly Mother also appeared at Fatima to three Portuguese shepherd kids in a field that was hardly distinguishable from other neighboring farmlands.
We have enshrined those momentous places and events with sacred buildings, but Mary began her interventions with ordinary people in indisputably mundane locations. The River Jordan, where John the Baptist stood and pointed out the Christ, was little more than a small muddy creek. The birthplace of Jesus was a simple cave dwelling commonly used to house cattle. God employs the simple to accomplish the glorious.
Our religious imagination occasionally obscures this primary truth. If we are fortunate to visit some of the preeminent religious places of our Catholic faith, we are often reminded of the simple origins of God’s grand design for our redemption and his ongoing interactions throughout the history of our Church.
The Georgia Bulletin is organizing another pilgrimage to the Holy Land in early 2018. I invite you to consider joining that journey of faith to visit some of the famous places of the land that Jesus called his home and from which he established the Church that guides us toward that Kingdom over which the Father presides and continues to govern.
The Holy Land pilgrimage sponsored by The Georgia Bulletin is set for Feb. 22-March 3, 2018, led by spiritual guide Father Michael Silloway. For more information and to book online, visit here.