Journey of Conversion
Apologies for a tardy response to Tourist or Pilgrim? Rescuing the Jubilee, by Paul Robichaud, C.S.P (12/18/99); a prolonged absence and the Christmas festivities have me going through issues of America in random order.
Father Robichaud asks questions about this Jubilee Year’s visitors to Rome, observing that the notion of pilgrimage is lost under the weight of tourism. Along more than 400 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain in 1998, my companions and I often tried to answer similar questions: Who are the real pilgrims? and Is the pilgrimage in the journey or in the destination?
On the road, we walkers knew that we were real pilgrims, allowed that those on bicycles or horses probably were pilgrims, and questioned whether or not those in autos or buses could be included in the select group. We also distinguished between those who walked the road for spiritual reasons, and those hikers whose goals were only sportif. However, by the time we got to Santiago de Compostela, most of us felt that it was silly to categorize the crowd into pilgrims and non-pilgrims, or to try to judge the worth of the intentions that moved men and women to undertake the journey. All had come to Santiagothat was important. Why we had come to Santiago was also important, but only each person could experience how life-changing that might be. Santiago’s and Christ’s holy door is open to all: pilgrims, tourists, spiritual vagabonds; one never knows when the Spirit will illuminate those who pass through it.
Father Robichaud writes, The heart of the pilgrimage is conversion, not travel, for the journey is only the means to the end. My one-pilgrimage experience leads me to a different conclusion, echoed by my companions on the road. The day-by-day life of the journey blends with arrival at the destination into an experience that lives long after the pilgrim returns home. The pilgrimage is a journey of conversion that continues in the mind of the pilgrim and changes the way he or she lives his or her life.
So I say: Relax, Father Robichaud. Today’s visitors to Rome will get as much spiritual benefit as pilgrims ever did. Don’t look for signs. Many of those in the crowds will exemplify the saying, I departed as a tourist; I arrived as a pilgrim.
J. Richard Durnan, D.D.S.
A Worthy Guide
Paul J. Caruso of Boston (Letters 1/15) lamented the fact that the excellent article by Paul Robichaud, C.S.P., (12/18/99) did not supply the titles of good texts on Rome and the topic of pilgrimage.
May I humbly recommend my recent publication, A Pilgrim’s Guide to Rome and the Holy Land for the Third Millennium (Thomas More Press)? It treats the topic of pilgrimage throughout church history and is meant as a spiritual guide for pilgrims. It’s not a guide for shopping, museums, eating and lodging, but rather a guide for those who want a retreat, and not just a tourist tour.
This book seeks to provide basic information and spiritual reflection that will help the pilgrim both to appreciate the places, art works and history, and to encounter God in the midst of them. In short, it is a guide to enable pilgrims to marvel and pray, to understand and worship, to perceive and praise.
Aurelie A. Hagstrom
University of St. Francis
A Post-Superbowl Reflection
Thomas McCarthy on American Sport is right (1/29). Professional sports are a huge waste of time. Sports fans will all say they watch sports for the enjoyment of it, but I wonder. A class polled at my local university reveals that most students are tense during football games, not relaxed, and many feel bummed out over the next several days and some up to a week if the game is close and the home team loses. If the fans enjoy watching so much, why do so many curse when something goes the wrong way?
I suggest another explanation. We might watch a live war on television, not because it is so enjoyable but because we believe it matters a great deal who wins and who loses. Similarly, by all appearances, sports fans also believe that it truly matters who wins the games and who loses. So we watch sports not because it is always so pleasant, but because we believe the outcome is of some importance. If sports fanatics
ever figure out that it matters not one whit in any way whatsoever who
wins or loses, would anybody still watch?
Dry and Humorless
I am very disappointed with America. Gone are the entertaining page 2 pieces. Even more important, and for me a crucial part of the reason I read America, were the articles that had a spiritual dimension. There are only a few recent ones. Such articles didn’t appear all that often, but they were there.
America has become a magazine of social justice only. Important, very important. But a person who believes in social justice needs nourishment too. America has become dry and humorless, lacking in spiritual basis.
Douglas C. Giancoli
Flour on the Face!
I enjoyed the article by David S. Toolan, S.J., entitled Five Days in Kosovo (1/1), which certainly gives a needed perspective of the Catholic Relief Services involvement, an enterprise of the American bishops that deserves our pride and continued support.
In the middle of the article, Father Toolan makes reference to Michael Riordan, on loan from Ireland’s aid agency, Trocaire, who manages the place, which on an average day, distributes some 200 tons of flower [sic], beans, rice, cooking oil and other food stuffs.
Undoubtedly the flour (not flower) must be a welcome commodity, given the fact that beans and rice are apparently not native to the Kosovar diet and are eaten with a sour grimace!
Robert Z. Apostol