St. Augustine Catholic
Ultimate Getaways
Hope for Troubled Marriages
Profile: Who is Ernie Bono?
in this issue... 
editor's notes
saint of the month
bishop's message
from the archives
in the know with Fr. Joe
work life
theology 101
your marriage matters
the parenting journey
spiritual fitness
parish profile
around the diocese
catholic news from around the world
calendar of events

Ultimate Getaways

From the California Missions to Lourdes to Mount Sinai, opportunities abound to refresh the mind, body and soul

Among the newest activities and ministries taking root in parishes and dioceses across the country, faith-based travel is becoming one of the most vibrant. In recent years Catholics have been traveling the globe with a spiritual intent in ever increasing numbers. World Youth Day, Lourdes, Fatima, Rome, Guadalupe and the Holy Land have become commonplace names of events and destinations visited by the faithful in recent years. Almost everyone knows somebody who has made an overseas pilgrimage.

What about you – when was the last time you combined your faith with vacation? When did you last travel with the primary purpose of visiting Catholic sites and destinations, or the lands of the Bible? If it has been awhile, maybe this could be the year you embark on such a trip.

Pilgrimages are nothing new to the Christian faith. Its origin dates to the Old Testament and essentially to the time of Genesis. Abraham was one of the first to make a faith-based journey. Once Solomon built the temple for the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem, the Israelites were required to make the trip to the sanctuary at least once each year. Pilgrimages also played a large role in the life of Jesus too. Almost the entire Gospel of John is centered on Jesus’ journeys to Jerusalem. From the fourth century through the middle Ages, Europe and the Holy Land became popular pilgrimage destinations.

Today, faith-based travel still plays a major role in the Christian tradition. More than 600,000 Americans travel overseas for religious or pilgrimage purposes each year. These types of trips are more than vacations – they are portals to refresh the body, mind and soul.

One of the catalysts for the continued popularity of pilgrimages is Pope John Paul II. Our late pontiff brought to the world’s attention the availability and prominence of Catholic shrines. Through his more than 200 trips to 129 destinations, he highlighted the benefits of spiritual vacations through word and deed.

There are plenty of opportunities for faith-based travel. For Catholics, there are hundreds of shrines and places of pilgrimage around the world.
Here is a list of popular Catholic vacations and destinations:

North America
• California Missions: Some of the most popular places of Catholic heritage in the United States include the 21 missions stretching along the coastline from San Diego to San Francisco.

• Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Mexico: More than 20 million people from around the world visit Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Mexico, where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531.

• Shrines of French Canada: Although not as well known as other Catholic pilgrimage sites, Quebec Province in Canada features some of the world’s greatest shrines, including St. Joseph’s Oratory, St. Anne de Beaupre and Our Lady of the Rosary Basilica in Cap-de-la-Madeleine.

• Rome: Of course the number one destination in Europe for virtually any Catholic is Rome – home to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. With the death of Pope John Paul II last year, today more than 20,000 people visit his tomb each day.

• Marian Shrines of Europe: Two of the most famous Marian shrines in Europe are Lourdes and Fatima. Each receiving more than five million visitors annually, both sites are home to where the Virgin Mary appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively.

• Santiago de Compostela: One of the top pilgrimage destinations of the Middle Ages along with Rome and Jerusalem, millions of pilgrims each year travel to Santiago de Compostela – home to the relics of St. James the Apostle.

• Assisi: Among two of Catholicism’s most popular saints are St. Francis and St. Clare. In Assisi you can visit the two basilicas dedicated to them, as well as their tombs and other sites related to their lives.

• Poland: For the Catholic, there is much to see and visit in Poland. Among the most visited sites are the boyhood home of Pope John Paul II in Wadowice, the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Our Lady of Czestochowa shrine and Niepokalanow – the friary and city founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe.

• Prague: In the Czech Republic you can visit Our Lady of Victory Church, home to the beloved statue and devotion of The Infant Child of Prague.

• Ireland: Not only can you spend time at Our Lady of Knock Shrine in Ireland (where the Virgin Mary appeared in 1879), but you can also visit the burial site of St. Patrick – Ireland’s famous patron saint.

Biblical Lands
• Israel: If you’d like to walk in the very footsteps of Jesus, there’s no better place to do this than in Israel. Although a travel warning still exists for Israel by the U.S. State Department, the faithful continue to travel to Israel each year.

• Egypt: Home to some of the world’s greatest wonders and a biblical sight, Egypt is possibly the best place to start any biblical pilgrimage. Many pivotal Old Testament events took place here, including Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

• Jordan: Considered the “Cradle of Christianity,” Jordan brings together the traditions and activities of Abraham, Job, Moses, Ruth, David, John the Baptist and Jesus. Pilgrims can trace many events from the Old and New Testaments while following the narrative of salvation history.

• Greece: Often associated with the missionary journeys of Apostle Paul, Greece is home to many New Testament and Early Christianity sites and activities.

• Turkey: In regards to Christian history and Biblical sites, Turkey is probably best known for its Seven Churches of Revelation – the same churches St. John wrote about in the last book of the Bible.

If you’re looking for a vacation idea that can change your life, look no further than your faith. The fruits of making such a trip are tremendous – pilgrimages deepen fellowship, enrich faith and intensify one’s purpose and meaning in life. And as the patron saint of the Diocese of Saint Augustine said 17 centuries ago, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Catholic Travel Guidebooks

Kevin J. Wright is the Religious Travel Manager for Globus, and an award-winning author of three religious travel guidebooks; published by Liguori Publications:

Catholic Shrines of Western Europe: A Pilgrim’s Travel Guide

Catholic Shrines of Central & Eastern Europe: A Pilgrim’s Travel Guide

Europe’s Monastery & Convent Guesthouses: A Pilgrim’s Travel Guide