Voice of Youth: Pilgrimage drew me closer to God
By Louise Altham
During a recent trip to Europe I was fortunate enough to have my eyes opened and my heart touched by the joy and treasure of pilgrimage. I travelled with a group of friends through England, France and Italy and found myself enormously proud of my Catholic heritage. To travel Europe, is to taste and sense the history of our faith.
Throughout the centuries millions of people have travelled far and wide to reach their destinations of pilgrimage. The popularity of pilgrimage can be seen to stem from our desire for contact with God. Along my pilgrimage I encountered centuries-old shrines and saw monasticism from an ‘insiders’ perspective.
Orvieto, Italy; Tyburn, England, and Rue de Bac in France were just some of the amazing sites I visited throughout my travels. Seeing first hand the site of miracles and martyrs allowed me to focus on the universality of our faith and to be inspired by the heroic nature of people such as St Thomas More.
I believe travel and especially pilgrimages help us as Catholics to look outside of ourselves and beyond the problems of daily life, as we begin to see life from a very different perspective.
Whenever problems arise we remember there are millions of Catholics all throughout the world and that in the end it is Our Lord’s Church and he knows what he is doing.
I also experienced a sense of beauty and awe when seated in one of the many stunning cathedrals and this led me to think about how many Catholic have lived throughout the ages. Catholics live outside of our own little circles on the other side of the world. Catholics have existed throughout the world for hundreds of years, and will exist throughout the world until the end of time.
The highlight of my travels was the experience of monasticism. The idea of staying in a monastery or convent is strangely attractive, with their mysterious yet peaceful atmosphere. History is filled with stories of people travelling great distances to gain a taste of monastic life.
We were on the other side of the world yet being welcomed into these houses of prayer just as though we were family. I experienced an enormous sense of what it means to be Catholic when welcomed by the monks and nuns with such hospitality and warmth. We began to forget that we were foreigners; we felt at home.
The sacred houses we were welcomed into included Farnborough Abbey, London; St Cecilia’s Abbey, Isle of Wight; Sacre Coeur, Paris, St Joseph’s Abbey, Flavigny and, finally, Le Barroux in the south of France. We were welcome to take part in the religious services of the communities, the Liturgy of the Hours and Mass and we began to see how exhausting yet rewarding it must be to live this lifestyle with 5am starts and prayer and work throughout the day.
At the conclusion of our five weeks I was thoroughly exhausted yet renewed and transformed. But I saw my pilgrimage as a personal invitation to search deeper into the fullness of Christ’s life, a time to grow closer to God and to enrich my life of faith.
Louise Altham is a member of the Sydney University Chaplaincy Team based at the John Paul II Student Resource Centre, Level 1, 245 Broadway 2007. Call 9518 6415 or visit www.usydcc.org