A Pilgrimage?

This is our last day in Rome, and we are busy packing up for the next leg of our adventure…

I once read a book that claimed every type of travel is a pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is usually defined as physical journeying to a place of special religious meaning.  Some also use the word to describe the inner transition from a state of complacency to a state of joy.  But to label visiting with friends, attending a wedding, or sightseeing in a new city as a pilgrimage seemed like an exaggeration … a few weeks ago

But after these past ten days, I am coming around to the idea. Although we arrived in this city of 8 million people with the intention of seeing the sights, enjoying the food and soaking up the continental ambiance, there have most definitely been moments of religious importance. Everywhere you turn there is a holy shrine of some description, and it is very moving to see the reactions of the visitors to these places.  It is mind boggling to observe the huge contingents of Catholic school kids… flocks of nuns in old fashioned habits… and droves of foreign tourists, all wearing the same brightly colored T-shirts. But after a few days, they blended into the scenery.  What will stay in my mind’s eye forever, are the vignettes of quiet devotion.

I saw a young couple, quietly praying while tears streamed from their eyes. Their plump twin babies squirmed in their arms, and obviously they had arrived at the Vatican to give thanks for their double blessing.

I saw an ancient couple, practically holding one another up as they walked the length of the nave at San Giovanni in Laterano, and I wondered if Jorge and I might live so long?

The woman kneeling before an image of the Madonna and Child smiled with her eyes closed. Could she sense her mentally challenged son, gazing at her with the same open beauty that shone from Mary’s face?

I did not imagine that I’d manage to successfully battle with the airline to let us on the flights we’d booked months ago…  Late at night, when my fever dreams became more and more ludicrous, Jorge found a doctor and he and Ricardo tromped the dark streets until they located a 24-hour pharmacy.  Losing one another on the train… deciphering important instructions for using the 220-110 V. converter – in Norwegian… shopping in the local market and then cooking up a storm in our little apartment kitchen. Figuring out how to buy metro tickets, get cell phone credit applied, and how to operate an Italian washing machine… Being away from our home environment and having to resolve all these situations has definitely lifted us out of complacency and brought on feelings of satisfaction.

Travel is definitely good for a person. In fact, I think I could now go so far as to call it, “the inner transition to a state of joy.”  I can’t wait to see what our next two weeks in Florence will hold!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “A Pilgrimage?

  1. Tracy Coates

    Joanna thanks so much for sharing your experiences. My first trip to Merida was in November. I had a good young (44 yrs) friend, Dianne, dying of cancer and going to leave her husband a widow with a 4 year old. I was very emotional and the churches of Merida were my blessing. I would go daily and sit and pray for them all. It was very calming. I am not catholic but they were my shrine. I totally understand what you are saying. Each time I visit Merida they are my special place. Enjoy your adventures and hopefully we will meet up one day in Merida. Tracy

    • Tracy, I am so sorry for your loss. I hope your friend and her family now have peace. I too have sought the solace of the Church when I have lost someone dear, and yet when all is well I do not find the same level of comfort from the Church. I hope I work this out one day… Thank you for sharing your story. Please keep in touch and let me know if you come to Merida again.

  2. Barb van der Gracht

    Reading the entry from Rome allows us to look with your eyes at all the wonders that are stacked on top of each other and around every corner in that ancient city. We are travelling with you as our guide… Thanks Joanna and Jorge

    • Ah Barb… if only you were here! This place would definitely send you to the moon and back… Today we found a new “Alimentari” shop and I could absolutely feel your eyes zooming over the shelves and hear your delighted intake of breath at the selection and freshness… Next time… no matter what else is happening… YOU and CRAIG are coming with us to this enchanted land.

      • Alice Trueman

        I remember well figuring out how to buy transit tickets in Rome with 35 high school students in tow and then getting them all onto the upper level of the same double-decker bus! Had it down pat after about the third trip – wait for an EMPTY bus to drive up!
        Loved Rome and benedictine

      • It certainly is one of the world’s unique cities… wouldn’t my mom have loved it?

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