Pilgrimage is an important part of the Christian’s life, and Pope Francis has called the faithful to live this out during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
In response to the Holy Father’s call for pilgrimage during the Year of Mercy, the Archdiocese of Denver is hosting a pilgrimage to Italy, led by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and one of Denver’s own Missionaries of Mercy designated by Pope Francis for the Jubilee Year, Monsignor J. Anthony McDaid, J.C.D. The pilgrimage will take place Sept. 16-26.
“God is always ready to pour out his mercy on us, but we are privileged to be living in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which offers us the chance to receive special graces through pilgrimage,” Archbishop Aquila wrote in a letter promoting the pilgrimage.
In planning the pilgrimage, the archdiocese called on Jane Luzietti and John Magee of the Denver-based Catholic travel agency Religious Travel International (RTI) to develop an itinerary that explored a message of mercy, while at the same time highlighting lesser known saints and religious sites associated with Italy.
The itinerary they developed for the archdiocesan pilgrimage will take the pilgrims to several fascinating locations within Italy that are associated with Catholic-Christian saints and miracles. These include the regions where Padre Pio conducted his ministry during his lifetime, Lanciano, the place where the first Eucharistic Miracle occurred, and Manoppello, where Veronica’s Veil resides.
Luzietti felt inspired to include Manoppello in this particular pilgrimage because she had visited the site herself the Fall prior. Manoppello is home to Veronica’s Veil, also called the Face of Jesus. It is a cloth made from sea silk that contains a vivid image of a man’s face, and science hasn’t been able to explain how the image got there. Studies have indicated in the past that it could be the cloth that covered Jesus’ face at the resurrection, though there is no formal proof to back this claim.
Regardless, Luzietti said sitting in the church that housed Veronica’s Veil was one of the most profound faith experiences she’d ever had, and she wanted the pilgrims to experience it for themselves.
“The face is so alive. I was in that church all alone and it was honestly the most mystical experience I’ve had in my life,” Luzietti said. “Pope Francis speaks a lot about looking into the face of Jesus during the Year of Mercy, and I thought, wow, what a perfect place to do that.”
Another interesting site the pilgrims will get a chance to visit is Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict and his sister, St. Scholastica. In 2000, a Benedictine community went to Norcia and re-established a Benedictine Monastery there. This particular community of Benedictine monks brew beer in the very old tradition of the Benedictines, which they call birra nursia, and is quite famous in that region of the world. Pilgrims will have the opportunity to partake in this drink whilst enjoying hospitality in the famous Benedictine tradition.
“When you take a pilgrimage, you step into the mystery of God and you realize that you’re a part of that mystery in your own life.”
The last few days of the pilgrimage will be spent in Rome. Pilgrims will have the opportunity to visit the major Papal basilicas, the Vatican and ancient Rome. Archbishop Aquila will lead the pilgrims through the threshold of one of the Holy Doors, and on the final day, the pilgrims will get to participate in a Papal Mass celebrated by Pope Francis himself in St. Peter’s Square.
The idea of pilgrimage goes back to the earliest of times, Magee said, when early Christians would travel to holy sites. Traveling to experience the world’s cultures and see landmarks are good things in and of themselves, Magee said, but going on pilgrimage presents a unique opportunity to travel and view the world through the eyes of faith.
“On a pilgrimage, you go in a sense of faith,” Magee said. “You are literally following in the footsteps of saints and martyrs, and you come away with a much greater appreciation of your faith.”
“When you take a pilgrimage, you step into the mystery of God and you realize that you’re a part of that mystery in your own life,” Luzietti said. “There’s really nothing quite like it.”
Pilgrimage to Italy
Cost: $4,275 ($350 non-refundable deposit due at time of registration)
Deadline: June 8
Visit http://rtijourneys.com to register, or call 303-563-6261 or 303-563-6255.