Many people visit revered parts of the world every year; few do so from the stance of a pilgrim with faith, prayer and spirituality. Led by well-trained Franciscan and historical guides, Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs offers a variety of journeys abroad and within the United States that explore deeper the mystery and meaning of sacred places traveled.
“A pilgrimage is not a tour of places. It is a journey of faith experienced in the spirit of those who are examples for us, St. Francis and St. Clare,” said Fr. John Cella, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province, director of Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs. “This year, because of various economic factors, we have been able to lower most of the costs for our pilgrimages. We want to make it possible for everyone to take advantage of this wonderful experience.”
Some of the FPP destinations for 2018 include Assisi, Rome and the Holy Land. Other experiences offer a pilgrimage focusing on St. Clare and a program specifically for those preparing for their life profession of religious vows.
While traveling the Assisi area, every significant place associated with St. Francis will be visited, according to the organization’s website. Highlights include visits to La Verna’s cave-chapel, sanctuary where Francis received the stigmata and Greccio, where Francis revitalized the custom of the Christmas crèche. This pilgrimage, which is offered in June, July and October of next year, also includes stops in Rome where participants will have the opportunity see St. John Lateran, the baptistry of the Franciscan Order and the Vatican of Francis’ day, St. Peter’s Basilica and San Francesco a Ripa.
Three opportunities are available to experience the Holy Land in 2018. These include the ‘classic’ pilgrimage from June 5 to 13, the ‘expanded’ pilgrimage from Sept. 22 to Oct. 3, or the option to visit further afield into Jordan from March 6 to 17.
“A Franciscan pilgrimage to the Holy Land is one journey that addresses a new dimension to Christian faith. Through an integration of prayer, reflection and relaxation, you will feel a spiritual awakening touch your hearts,” says FPP’s leaflet. “As you follow in the footsteps of Christ, you will see the stories of the Bible come to life. Picture yourself in Bethlehem as you pray inside a cave and wonder at the mystery of Christ’s birth, crossing the Sea of Galilee or climbing the Mount of Beatitudes.”
New for 2018 is “The St. Clare as Healer Pilgrimage,” intended to help sojourners who are coping with a difficult life circumstance. “In the midst of grief, loss, trauma, or hardships, we can find ourselves facing unknown, unforeseeable, and even threatening prospects,” reads the description of the trip on the organization’s website. “We will explore St. Clare’s life and the role she took on, and continues to take on, in transforming those in need of healing.” The trip will be offered from Sept. 7 to 17. More details on this pilgrimage will be released soon.
A special pilgrimage for friars and sisters preparing for life profession of vows will be taking place from July 2 to 25. In addition to visiting all the significant sites in Assisi, participants will spend time in the Rieti Valley and Rome, and experience the splendor of La Verna and Cortona in Tuscany. “Emphasis will be placed more on the ‘study’ aspect by the depth of information, the large number of sites visited, as well as input specifically intended for those preparing for religious commitment,” the 2018 program brochure stated. “Likewise, there is a significant amount of time set aside for quiet reflection, prayer and discussion. Friars and sisters from all the branches of the Franciscan family are invited to participate in this comprehensive program”.
Since the 1970s, Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs has offered opportunities for men and women to take part on spiritual journeys. The underlying philosophy of the pilgrimages is the belief that meaning and direction for life is not bound by chronological age.
Trips are open to religious and laypeople, and offer an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of holy men and women. The organization’s website provides detailed information on airfare, lodging, ground transportation and meals, as well as the proposed itinerary.
- “Friars Trace Footsteps of St. Junipero Serra” – June 14, 2016, HNP Today
- “Junipero Sera Proclaimed a Saint” – Sept. 29, 2015, HNP Today
- “Civita di Bagnoregio Journal” – Sept. 9, 2015, The New York Times
- “Friars Pray, Reflect and Commune on La Verna Pilgrimage” – Nov. 19, 2008, HNP Today
- “SBU Pilgrims Visit School’s Early Roots” – Sept. 10, 2008, HNP Today