One of the pleasant things about returning from a pilgrimage is that first night back home. That opportunity to get a great night’s sleep, to recharge your body and re-energise your mind, to enjoy a long adventure in the world of dreams.
Now this isn’t to say that a pilgrimage itself isn’t wonderful; on the contrary, it’s an excellent opportunity to delve deeper into the rich ocean of the faith. In that regard, I suppose one could say the first night back is that moment when you’ve finished swimming in the pilgrimage’s rich waters and are now resting by the beach, perhaps with a refreshing piña colada and reasonably-priced sunglasses.
So it was with Rome 2017. Upon getting back home, I greeted my beautiful Brazilian wife with a warm embrace, cooked some pasta to satiate my impoverished stomach and promptly went to bed to enjoy a long, fruitful sleep.
And like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I am once again ablaze with energy and life. The tiredness brought on from the punishing Roman sun has been defeated. Alas, that victory has come with casualties, and I am now far removed from the Glacies Crepito Gaudium – or the Joy of the Ice Cream. Kelly’s of Cornwall will have to suffice for now.
But aside from the scrumptious Italian ice cream, there were many more highlights from our weekend pilgrimage to the boot-shaped nation.
As a fervent supporter of the living saint that is Benedict XVI, visiting the beautiful Castel Gandolfo was a particular privilege. Our group got to see the Pontifical Palace and tour the Pontifical Gardens, where man and nature harmoniously unite to fashion a fitting example of humanity’s good stewardship of God’s creation.
We circled around the resplendent volcanic lake, Lago Albano. It was of no surprise that numerous newly-wed couples were present with their photographers, memorialising their blessed occasion to a backdrop fitting of the beauty of the institution of marriage.
More than the specific moments during the pilgrimage, however, there was a greater highlight; you could call it a transcendent highlight.
Pope Benedict once said that “Life is not just a succession of events or experiences. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this that we find happiness and joy.”
Indeed, whilst the Rome pilgrimage was, on one level, a succession of events and experiences, the underlining reason for it was that great search for the true, the good and the beautiful. The linguistically masterful Benedict succinctly encapsulates the mission of every man and woman.
This is what we saw during our pilgrimage. From the beautiful churches and sculptures, to the goodness of Saint Maria Goretti, to the truth of the Church’s teaching, the totality of our weekend adventure encapsulated that mission in life.
Yes, there were particular moments that stood out as personally special, but they were pieces to the puzzle – moments of truth, goodness and beauty – helping to reveal the bigger picture that is God’s presence.
Pilgrimages are an opportunity to immerse ourselves more fully into the mysteries of our existence, and discover the purpose for which we were made. When we are gifted opportunities like Rome 2017, we are exposed to more instances of the true, the good and beautiful, and thus come to a better understanding of who and why we are.
I would encourage everyone to go on as many pilgrimages as possible. Whether it be a big city like Rome or a small town like Lisieux, expose yourself to more opportunities to witness the true, the good and the beautiful, and grow from them to be a beacon of these virtues in your own life.
In doing so, you will not only find a more fulfilling life, but also the purpose for which you were created.