Pilgrimage should be second nature to an institution that’s dedicated to the spirit of St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. Any book devoted to St. Paul’s ministry is sure to have pages devoted to maps. Our patron was a man on the move. Yet he was not a restless wanderer. He was a pilgrim, and he sojourned with a destination in mind. “For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus … for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16).
Paul’s ultimate destination was the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). Yet while he lived on earth he made the voyage, when it was possible, to the earthly Jerusalem. No pilgrim journal has survived, but can we doubt that he visited the places made holy by Jesus’ footfall? Can we doubt that he wept at the place of the cross — the cross in which he gloried (Galatians 6:14)? Can we doubt that he meditated upon the empty tomb – pondering the resurrection, from which he drew power to suffer like Christ (Philippians 3:10)?
Paul was the model pilgrim — rolling with the hardships, praying constantly, giving proper veneration to the earthly sites that stand as signs of our heavenly home.
So we at the St. Paul Center make our journeys, in imitation of our patron, who imitated his master. For Jesus himself made pilgrimage to the Holy City, three times a year, as all Jewish men were commanded to do (see Deuteronomy 16:16; John 2:13, 5:1).
In 2011 we will follow St. Paul as we journey back to the place he loved. We’re leading a pilgrim group, and I hope you can join us — if not on the plane, at least in spirit. We’ll be there May 23-June 1, and we’ve planned the itinerary for the greatest spiritual impact. We’ll pray together at Calvary, at the Holy Sepulcher, at Bethlehem, at Bethsaida, at Capernaum. We’ll celebrate Mass in the place where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. We’ll spend time in the homes of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth. We’ll venture to the Dead Sea and the Mount of the Transfiguration. If you’re married, you can renew your vows at the site of the wedding feast at Cana.
There is a profound Marian dimension to everything we do in the Holy Land. We’ll visit the sites of the mysteries of the Rosary, and we follow Our Lady’s footsteps as she traveled the way God had prepared for her from the beginning of time — from Nazareth to heaven.
It’s a prayerful experience. My visits to the Holy Land have transformed the way I pray. They have permanently changed the way my imagination responds to the Gospel when it’s read at Mass. They have focused my concentration as I ponder the decades of the Rosary.
Join me, and you and I can enjoy the company of several of my old friends: authors Steve Ray and Mike Aquilina, Scripture scholar Dr. Michael Barber, and our chaplain Father Joseph Poggemeyer (also a Scripture scholar). They’ll guide our experience with valuable talks at the hotel and on the bus.
I would like to make this our greatest journey ever, with the greatest number of pilgrims. Please pray for both intentions.
I promise you my prayers, too.