Experience the Heritage of Visionary Men and Women of Faith
One of the ways to invigorate the life of a parish or institution is to organize a pilgrimage to explore the heritage of your parish patron saint. The Christian tradition of honoring the lives of saints illustrates the many shapes and forms that holiness takes. No two saints' lives are the same. We are each called to holiness in the particular context of our own culture and time.
One of the ways to concretize the call to holiness is to visit places that were formative in the life and ministry of saints. These historic lands make the saint's life more tangible and help contemporary Christians not only appreciate the heritage of their tradition but think creatively about how to witness to Christ's presence in their own day and age.
Agnes of Rome & The Early Christian Community at Rome
Bernadette: A Pilgrimage to Lourdes, Paris & the Loire Valley of France
Catherine of Siena: A Pilgrimage to Siena and Rome
Cecilia and Early Christian Rome
Charles Borromeo - Exploring the Heritage of His Life and Ministry in Milan, Florence, Assisi & Rome
Clare of Assisi: A Pilgrimage to Assisi & Rome
Francis of Assisi: A Pilgrimage to Assisi & Rome
Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits in Rome
Ignatius of Loyola: A Pilgrimage to Spain and Rome
James: A Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Barcelona & Lourdes
Lawrence of Rome: A Pilgrimage to Rome
Mary the Mother of God & Christian Art in Rome
Our Lady of Guadalupe : A Pilgrimage to Mexico
Paul: A Pilgrimage to Rome
Paul: Exploring Early Christian Communities in Turkey and Greece
Peter: The Heritage of Peter and Early Christian Rome
Thomas Aquinas: A Pilgrimage to Rome and Naples
Thomas More: Rome & Canterbury
Agnes was a young Roman maiden who, after her conversion to Christianity, vowed not to marry – consecrating her virginity and life to God. Under an outbreak of persecution at the beginning of the 4th century, she was martyred. She was buried on the Via Nomentana where, in the mid-4th century, a church was built in her honor. A catacomb complex grew up around the area – and a beautiful nearby mausoleum, built for Constantine’s daughters Helen and Constantina, was converted into a chapel. A pilgrimage to Rome offers an opportunity to explore the world of early Christianity as Rome preserves some of the greatest archaeological and artistic evidence of the first centuries of Christianity.
Bernadette was born at Lourdes in 1844. Unremarkable as a child, she had a series of extraordinary experiences when she was fourteen at a cave on the river Gave. 18 times, a woman identified as the Virgin Mary, spoke to her. Later, Bernadette entered the convent of the Sisters of Charity at Nevers. The conversations she had with the Virgin Mary became the foundation for the establishment of a site for spiritual and physical healing. The site became a place of pilgrimage for countless Christians- perhaps the most important in all of Europe. Bernadette was canonized for her humble simplicity and religious trust.
Catherine of Siena, one of the major patron saints of Italy, has been a favorite model of Christian life and devotion for centuries. Born in Siena, Catherine quickly showed aptitude for spiritual life and mysticism. She became a Dominican and, when difficulties arose around the Avignon Papacy and the Western Schism, she devoted herself to mediating much of the conflict. Her personal commitment to challenging the Church to integrity is an inspiration for us all. She died in Rome and is buried in the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Programs can be developed that combine travel to Rome and Siena, exploring the unique age of this great woman of faith.
Cecilia was a young woman of patrician rank betrothed to a young pagan, Valerian. On her wedding day, she informed Valerian that she had consecrated her virginity to God. He not only respected her vow, but was himself Baptized. However, Cecilia was later brought before the Roman prefect and because she refused to worship the Emperor, was sentenced to be stifled to death in the bathroom of her house. The steam refused to suffocate her and three attempts at beheading her failed. However, she was left lingering for days - and died. Her home, in Trastevere, was converted into a church. Since legend has it that she sang during her passion - she is considered patroness of musicians.
Charles Borromeo - Exploring the Heritage of His Life and Ministry in Milan, Florence, Assisi & Rome
Charles Borromeo was born in Arona, on beautiful Lago Maggiore north of Milan, in the 16th century—a time when the Roman Catholic Church was beginning to deal with the challenges of the Reformation. He served the Church during the pivotal 16th century in several positions—earlier as secretary of state for the Papal States and later as Archbishop of Milan. He was extraordinarily instrumental in the evolution of the sessions of the Council of Trent, and initiated important reforms of clergy life and formation. He was also instrumental in the beginning of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine which has been an important institution by which the Church has passed on its rich tradition to new generations.
Clare, like Francis, was born of a noble family in the beautiful Umbrian town of Assisi. She joined Francis and his companions in a life that embraced poverty for the sake of service. Under the influence of Francis, she formed a community of women called the Poor Clares. They were established in the church of San Damiano, which Francis had rebuilt, where he experienced his call to reform the Church . The crucifix which spoke to him hangs in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi - built over Clare's tomb (where her preserved body can be seen). The Poor Clares embraced radical poverty - owning nothing individually or communally. Clare is considered one of the greatest examples of evangelical poverty and contemplative spirituality.
Few saints have inspired the Catholic faithful as much as Francis of Assisi. Calling the church back to the simplicity of the Gospel, Francis challenged the medieval church to rediscover the spiritual rewards associated with imitating Jesus' life - in his simple service to the marginalized. Born into a noble family, Francis abandoned his privileged life to rebuild the church. This itinerary includes a visit to the well-preserved town of Assisi - including stops at the church of San Damiano - where Francis began his work - and the Porziuncula where his early disciples met and where Francis died.
Ignatius of Loyola was born of a noble family in Spain - and drawing from his military experience - forged a new religious order and movement within the Roman Catholic Church which characterized much of the spirit of the counterreformation. Ignatius came to Rome early in his ministry - and from Rome launched several important apostolic activities. In Rome it is possible to visit his rooms, several places set up for ministry to Rome's poor and destitute, and to visit large institutions set up by the Jesuit Order during and after Ignatius' life.
Jesuit Institutions and parishes that are named after Ignatius of Loyola or Francis Xavier can gain great insights into the unique personality, charism and ministry of these saints by visiting sites associated with their early lives in northern Spain. These include the sanctuary of Loyola, Xavier Castle, Pamplona, Manresa and Montserrat. Combining a visit to northern Spain with Rome enables groups to experience the development of their ministry and the historical context that precipitated the success of the Jesuits' response to the challenges facing Rome, Roman Catholicism and Christianity in the 16th century.
James the Greater was the brother of John and one of the chosen twelve disciples of Jesus. He was one of the first to be martyred by Herod Agrippa I in 44. Legend has it that he sailed to Spain and preached to the local population before returning to Jerusalem. His disciples fled Jerusalem, bringing his body back to the area where he had preached in Spain. He made a miraculous appearance in Spain during the crusade against the Moors - and thus became a central patron of Spanish Catholicism. The site of his tomb in Santiago de Compostela - was one of the three great centers of Christian pilgrimage (with Rome and Jerusalem).
Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of Rome and was martyred in 258 during a severe persecution against Christians. Legend has it that Lawrence was martyred by being roasted on a grill - thus Rome is filled with artistic representations of his death. He was buried in a cemetery just outside the walls where the Church of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls stands. According to tradition when asked by the Roman prefect to turn over church valuables - Lawrence brought him the poor and sick saying, "Here are the church's treasure."
This program focuses on the artistic expressions of Marian devotion in Rome - particularly in the mosaic apses of some of the great historic churches in Rome such as Mary Major - built on the occasion of the Council of Ephesus - St. Mary in Trastevere - one of the oldest Christian sites in Rome - and the famous Pieta' of Michelangelo in St. Peter's.
The apparition of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego in Mexico marked an important turning point in the conversion of the native population of Mexico to Christianity. Our Lady of Guadalupe has played an important role in the popular spirituality of Mexican Americans. This pilgrimage visits the shrine to Our Lady and explores the many expressions of Latin American Christianity that are evident in Mexico City and its surrounding villages.
Paul was perhaps the most influential force in the development of Christianity as we know it. He was a Jewish rabbi who, in the light of his experience of the risen Christ, began to forge a non-sectarian form of Judaism and Christianity – making it appealing to a broad cross-section of the Greco-Roman population. At the end of ambitious missionary journeys, Paul ended up in Rome. He met collaborators – some of whom oversaw early house churches in Rome. Although acquitted of charges against him, Paul was later beheaded on the Ostiense Road where, in the late 4th century, a basilica was built over his tomb.
Trace the footsteps of Paul's missionary journeys into Asia Minor and Greece - visiting some of the great urban centers of the ancient world - such as Ephesus, Pergamon, Phillipi, Thessaloniki, Athens and Corinth. Ponder the context within which early Christianity emerged and forged a new culture.
Peter, one of Jesus’ chosen twelve, came to Rome as part of an effort to spread the faith. During his sojourn in Rome, the Emperor Nero initiated a persecution of Christians. Peter suffered martyrdom in 64 and was buried in a cemetery on the Vatican hill. For centuries, Christians have come to Rome to pay homage to this great man and to the ministry of unity that he and his successors exercise in the Church. In the 4th century, Constantine built a large basilica over Peter’s tomb. This basilica was rebuilt in the 1500’s – the present day Basilica of St. Peter. A visit to Rome not only affords an opportunity to visit the site of his martyrdom and burial – but to reflect on the context of Peter’s ministry at the height of Roman Imperial power.
Thomas Aquinas is one of the most influential doctors of the Catholic Church - composing masterful summaries and insightful essays of Christian theology and philosophy. Thomas was born in Aquino, near Naples. He studied in Naples - joined the Dominicans in Rome - and then taught theology in Paris and Cologne. In addition to his fame for theological analysis, Aquinas was a good preacher and delivered a number of sermons throughout Italy. Although he died in Italy, his remains were buried in Toulouse, France. Important relics are kept in Naples and Rome as well.
Thomas More is one of the most interesting figures to emerge in the highly contentious 16th century - when Luther was beginning the Reformation in Germany and Henry VIII challenged the authority of the Pope over the Church in England. More was Chancellor of England, a post he resigned when Henry required clergy to affirm that he was head of the Church of England. More had hoped to avoid a confrontation, but was eventually arrested for not swearing an oath to the King - and imprisoned in the Tower of London before he was beheaded in 1534.