Tag Archives: pilgrimage

Transition day: Bridging the World Meeting and papal visit

September 25, 2015

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Michael and Kristen Martocchio from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, brought their two daughters, Francesca, 5, and Cecilia, 2, with them to the World Meeting. Kristen is also pregnant, due in January.

Michael and Kristen Martocchio from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, brought their two daughters, Francesca, 5, and Cecilia, 2, with them to the World Meeting. Kristen is also pregnant, due in January.

The World Meeting of Families has wrapped up Part I: the congress, a series of keynote addresses and breakout sessions in multiple languages, daily Masses with extraordinary processions of miters, and 20,000 people trying to navigate a convention center. It has been well-managed chaos, making it seem like that huge number of participants can’t actually be real. It’s the most people the World Meeting has attracted since its founding by St. John Paul II in 1994.

Part II begins tomorrow, when Pope Francis arrives for the World Meeting of Families. Anticipation is thick. This morning, security set up a perimeter around the area Pope Francis will be tomorrow, and getting in and out appears daunting, although right now it’s easy. (Although one Philadelphian just called it “a police state.”) I have no idea what to expect tomorrow when our group arrives. We’re scheduled to visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa tomorrow for Mass tomorrow, but it sounds like other groups in the Minnesota contingent are changing plans to get to downtown Philadelphia earlier.

Nobody’s really certain what to expect. My husband asked if I’m going to try to take a selfie with Pope Francis. I’ll just be happy if I glimpse him with my own eyes.

For me, there’s a definite perceived disconnect between the Holy Father’s visit and the World Meeting of Families, even though I’m completely aware that the World Meeting is why he’s here. He’s made that clear, too, through his emphasis to Congress on the importance of the family and his concerns about young adults’ fear to form their own families, as well as his overtures to children throughout the trip so far.

Sister Candace Fier, a Schoenstatt sister and the director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of New Ulm, said that disconnect isn’t supposed to exist.

“I would hope that people would see it as one,” she said. “I’ve talked to people who have attended other World Meeting of Families, and I’ve gotten the impression that the United States is really the only one that has separated the papal visit from the World Meeting of Families. We’ve kind of made them two separate events. I think the Holy Father was coming for of the World Meeting of Families, he was coming to address our families. He was coming to make this a worldwide encounter with the father of the Church, and in that sense I hope that people don’t see it as two separate things, because we take away from the beauty and the depth of what this experience is meant to be.

“He came to see our families together,” she continued. “He came to give a message to our families here — not individuals here or there. It’s not another speaking engagement, another thing that was put on the agenda for his visit to the United States. He came to give a message to this group as the Holy Father has done every three years since John Paul started it. I hope we don’t lose sight of that, because I think we need to listen carefully. The message is specific to us as families, as Church.”

At the core, that’s why Michael and Kristen Martocchio from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, brought their two daughters, Francesca, 5, and Cecilia, 2, with them to the World Meeting. Kristen is also pregnant, due in January.

“It’s the World Meeting of Families — not the World Meeting about Families,” Michael said. “We just thought it was important to bring them, plus the sense of getting the larger Church, the global Church for them. They’re not going to remember a whole lot about what people say, but they will hopefully have some memory of a bunch of people.”

People’s reaction? “The weirdest thing is that a bunch of people will take pictures of us with our kids, like, ‘Look — a real, live family!’,” he said. “Other than that, it’s been fine, everyone’s happy to see kids.”

Kristen has a backpack of crayons, coloring books, toys and prizes for good behavior.

“It keeps them entertained for at least 10 minutes,” she joked.

I’ve maybe been among those weird, oggly pilgrims Michael mentioned. I really miss my husband and toddler, and seeing families together makes me think of them.

There have been many families at the World Meeting; it includes a youth conference for school-age kids, and plenty of mothers have been nursing their infants. This morning during Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s address, I walked past a few siblings playing on the convention center floor with Legos. Smart mom, I thought.

But the challenge put forth during the World Meeting for so many moms and dads is far beyond keeping kids quiet in Church or a bishop’s presentation. It’s making the home a domestic church.

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On pilgrimage, pizza and walking 108 miles

September 24, 2015

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Pilgrimage, in the traditional sense. CNS

Pilgrimage, in the traditional sense. CNS

I have to admit, when I think “pilgrimage,” I think of throngs making their way to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on their knees. I think of the steady flow of men and women into Santiago de Compostela, Spain, after weeks or months of hiking. I think of the seven-church walk in Rome and the inevitable blisters.

Frankly, I think of pain, suffering, sacrifice, hunger and thirst. I don’t think of a king-sized bed at the Holiday Inn Express, which is where I’m sitting after enjoying an all-you-can-eat pizza dinner.

Yes, I am on pilgrimage, but it’s one where the hardships have been subtle, less self-inflicted, and, for me, more about squashing impatience, annoyance, self-centeredness or sarcasm, in favor of a spirit of solidarity with those around me, whether they be fellow Minnesotans or from a continent on the other side of the globe.

They, too, arrived by plane. For others, it was train, bus or car, and it is no less a pilgrimage. But there is at least one group that is reclaiming a core aspect of the medieval pilgrimage on their journey to see the Holy Father — a long, hard walk.

On Sunday, a group of 22 left the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in downtown Baltimore, better known as America’s first cathedral. Wearing neon yellow shirts, they started walking north to Philadelphia. It’s a trek of 108 miles. At night, they rely on parishes and schools for shelter and showers, but it’s safe to surmise that when they arrive Sunday in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, they’re going to be sweaty and tired.

The leader is Father Jack Lombardi, a soft-spoken pastor from the narrowest stretch of Maryland’s panhandle. A frequent pilgrimage leader to Europe’s sacred sites, he decided to take up a U.S. cause in 2012 and gathered dozens of pilgrims to walk 100 miles from his parish in Hancock to Baltimore in support of religious freedom. The U.S. bishops, with Baltimore Archbishop William Lori at the helm, had taken up the fight against the federal health care mandate for all employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients. The walk was Father Lombardi’s show of support and a fundraiser for local charities.

The following year, Father Lombardi led another pilgrimage, this time from Baltimore to Washington. In 2014, he brought a group to France, where they walked with shirts reading “We’re walking for YOU!” in English and French.

When Pope Francis announced he would be in Philadelphia, so close to Baltimore, there was no way Father Lombardi was going to turn down the chance to get to him on foot.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Father Lombardi several times as a staff writer for The Catholic Review, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, a position I left last year to return in January to The Catholic Spirit. One of my earliest assignments was in Hancock, where Father Lombardi, a respected retreat master, told me about his love of pilgrimage. Last summer, I sat on the porch of his parish house listening to pilgrims describe adventures in several of France’s holy sites.

This year, Catholic Review editor Paul McMullen will have his own tales, as he’s part of the pilgrimage to Philadelphia. He posted on Facebook yesterday that they had crossed into Pennsylvania and shared a story of the group comforting a woman who was shaken up after the group happened upon her car accident.

Calling their walk “A pilgrimage of Love and Mercy,” paired with a charitable “Feet for Francis” shoe drive, the pilgrims are keeping the intention of religious freedom in prayer as they make their way north. I’m hoping I’ll have a chance to be part of their welcoming committee when they break into the crowd before Pope Francis’ Mass Sunday on Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

It’s a serious undertaking, this 100-mile walk, but it’s a reminder that pilgrimage is not a relic of the past. I was reminded of that last year, when a friend invited me on a pilgrimage to the Baltimore Basilica. At first, I thought it was odd. It was less than a mile from where I lived; I walked there regularly. But we did it, praying a rosary on the way there, asking for Mary’s intercession in the undercroft, and adding another rosary on the way back. It was so simple. And while we walked, it became clear that the pilgrimage was about disposition, not destination.

So, here am I, a pilgrim, who will sleep well tonight in a comfortable bed. And there’s Paul, who is likely on some mat on a parish hall floor. Hopefully for both of us there will be other pilgrimages, and among them, those that are physically demanding, and those that are emotionally demanding. Both can be spiritually demanding, and both can compel conversion.

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Up for walking a Twin Cities ‘pilgrimage’?

March 26, 2012

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What if you could make a pilgrimage right in the middle of the Twin Cities?

Pilgrimages to Fatima, Lourdes, the Holy Land and Rome are great if one can make those kinds of trips. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain — The Way of St. James — is gaining such popularity it’s been the focus of a Martin Sheen/Emilio Estevez movie. That last one is 500 miles of walking through the French/Spanish countryside.

But for three years now, folks have been going on a much shorter walking trip through New York City. Meghan Clark chronicles the 13.5-mile journey well in photos and story.

So here’s the question for you?

Think we could do something similar in the Twin Cities?

Where would you start? What stops would you make along the way, and why?

What should be “can’t-miss” opportunities? What might be prayerful events to include, people to speak to the group (maybe about the history of the place, the architecture, etc.)?

What would make a good, interesting route?

Remember, this would be a walking activity, a trip that would be completed in one day. Lots of daylight hours from mid-May through July would make for the best time of year. Figure it’s 10 miles between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul.

Comment to this post or email your suggestions to zyskowskir@archspm.org.

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Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez made a great movie in ‘The Way’

September 14, 2011

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Catholics won’t want to miss this very spiritual film

Martin Sheen fans will have yet another reason to value this actor who happens to be Catholic when they see “The Way.”

The premier is set for Oct. 7 in New York City — ironically — because Emilio Estevez, the writer/director, is quick to say that the movie is for people who live between Manhattan and Glendale, California. He said that, as he pitched this movie about a pilgrimage to movie industry execs in both New York and Hollywood, he could see their eyes glaze over. They’re not interested in making movies for thinking people, preferring films with nudity and things blowing up.

“They call this fly-over country,” Estevez said during a promotional stop in the Twin Cities. “I call it the United States.”

“The Way” is terrific, a great story superbly told and acted, with great scenery, with touching drama, with verbal and visual humor, with clever casting, with crisp, believable, thought-provoking dialogue, perfect soundtrack, characters you want to know better — the whole enchilada of what makes a satisfying evening before the big screen. Catch the trailer.

Here’s the gist of it: Sheen plays a curmudgeon of a California country club ophthalmologist who doesn’t approve of his adult son going off to see the world. There’s a poignant scene at the start when Sheen is driving his son to the airport and Sheen’s character, Tom Avery, is defending the life he’s chosen. Son Daniel, played by Estevez (Sheen’s real-life son), responds, “You don’t choose a life, dad. You live it.” That’s what this movie is about, although of course it’s much more complex and fulfilling than that.

The way of the film’s title is the Camino de Santiago, the thousand-year-old pilgrimage route from southern France through the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Blessings are said to come to those who complete the journey to where tradition holds the remains of the Apostle James (Santiago in Spanish) are preserved in the Cathedral of Santiago. Daniel Avery sets out to walk the 480 miles but dies in a storm shortly after starting. When father Tom comes to claim his body, he decides to complete the journey his estranged son started.

Journey as metaphor

What Tom Avery learns along the way about himself and the difference between a life you choose and a life you live, makes for great movie watching. The reasons one walks the Camino — as played out by a wonderful cast — have a lot to say to everyone about our own journey through life and the approach we take on our journey: Do we walk it alone or do we jump in with others and accept both the rich rewards and the potential hurts?

Along with “The Help,” this new Sheen-Estevez vehicle could help Hollywood see that people are tired of the crap, to use Estevez’ word, that is on today’s movie screens. That there was something religious and spiritual about the movie he was pitching scared away agents and producers alike.

The reaction “The Way” is receiving as Sheen and Estevez make a 35-city bus tour to screen the movie before live audiences is telling them — and hopefully film executives — that this type of movie plays well to the majority of the country who don’t sit in filmdom’s isolated offices on the East or West Coast.

“The Way” will be in theaters around North America October 7. You won’t want to miss it.

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