A little about our story and why we are celebrating!
Inside the Vatican Pilgrimages began in 2008 with our first pilgrimage to Rome because we realized there was a real need for people to experience a true pilgrimage — a journey of the mind, heart and spirit — not just a tourist trip to interesting places.
It is important to point out that our knowledge of church affairs, the Vatican, Rome and other holy places, and this need to experience a true pilgrimage, was a result of the work done by Dr. Robert Moynihan, founder and editor of Inside the Vatican magazine. The magazine was launched in 1993 in an effort to fill a particular gap. Dr. Moynihan, who had already spent a number of years reporting from the Vatican, felt that many publications (ranging from small Catholic journals to major international secular magazines) seemed to be partial, tendentious, superficial, or uncritical in their coverage of Catholic affairs, and of the Vatican, in particular. The aim was to be balanced, reasonable, thoughtful and probing. So many readers applauded the first effort that regular publication ensued with ten editions issued annually ever since, over 27 years of publishing! [LINK to more information about Inside the Vatican magazine.]
The same thing happened with the pilgrimages. After our first pilgrimage in 2008, some of our pilgrims were so moved by the experience that they asked us to do another, and from that, another…each of our first 25 pilgrimages, in fact, came about at the request of pilgrims from previous pilgrimages.
Since then, we have brought hundreds of people to Rome, the home of the Vatican and the incomparable St. Peter’s Basilica, and to other beautiful and holy places in Italy. England, Germany, Russia and Turkey are just a few of the other countries to which we have traveled on pilgrimage.
We can’t stress enough that our pilgrimages are not for “tourists,” who have an itinerary of sights they visit and photograph and leave. Our pilgrimages are journeys of faith which incorporate unique, unscripted opportunities for encounter with unforgettable people of faith, whether we are in Thomas More’s cell in the Tower of London, or the childhood home of Pope Emeritus Benedict in Bavaria, or the backyard garden of a new friend we have met in Ukraine. Even the small hotel owners that hug our pilgrims goodbye become a part of the fabric of our pilgrimage experience.
One priceless example of “encounter”: on one of our trips, the cardinal who is in charge of the basilica St. Paul’s Outside-the-Wall, a personal friend, accepted our spur-of-the-moment invitation to have coffee with our group and accompanied us as we walked through the basilica, pointing out fascinating features of the architecture and symbolism and relating little-known stories of its history. Due to Dr. Robert Moynihan’s years of work in and around the Vatican and the Universal Church, his exclusive connections and friendships, such spontaneous, unrepeatable encounters are not rare.
Our eight or nine days together become a type of mirror of our entire life’s journey of faith. The pilgrimage takes on the characteristics of a retreat, of a seminar, almost of a liturgy, drawing us into our own depths and in so doing, drawing us closer to God. There is an ebb and flow on a pilgrimage, moments of movement and moments of stillness; moments of exteriority and moments of interiority; moments of waiting outside a basilica, and moments of standing in the presence of the greatest saints of our tradition. And this ebb and flow can bring us finally to an interior metanoia, a change in how we view our lives, our faith and our relationship with God and with one another.
Whether encountering a university professor, a local historian, or your own Pilgrimage Leader, you are in touch with people who have the deep insights on issues closest to the hearts of Catholics in the world. In addition, often we are able to meet with experts and newsmakers of the day to discuss current events. Sometimes the topics are spiritual; others, they are historical, cultural or controversial; always, these candid discussions add a rare texture to the trip as our pilgrims come to a deeper appreciation of the Faith, and the Church’s place in the world.
Whether walking through St. Paul Outside-the-walls Basilica with Cardinal Harvey, sharing tea with with Cardinal Arinze in his apartment, or meeting the local bishop of a city, our pilgrims are given an insider’s scoop of about the past, present, and future direction of the Church by some of the important shapers of society today.
And always, we make it possible for pilgrims to experience these precious moments of encounter, these strands woven into the rich and varied tapestry of our Christian spiritual heritage, without worry or distraction. Peace of mind is an essential ingredient to spiritual renewal, and we do everything in our power to ensure it for our pilgrims.
This October we are celebrating the more than 25 years of publication of Inside the Vatican magazine with a special pilgrimage that takes us to some of our favorite places with some of our dearest friends and pilgrims. During this pilgrimage, we will explore “The Greatest Holy Presences,” beginning with the The Face of Christ in Manoppello and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in Lanciano.
Then we will spend time encountering St. Peter by attending Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and receiving the Angelus message from Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square. Next, we will travel to Subiaco to explore St. Benedict and the monastic life with a reflection by one of dear friends, a Benedictine monk. Thereafter, we will journey along the Appian Way to the south of Rome where we will learn about St. Paul including a visit to the Church of St. Paul at the Three Fountains, the site of his martyrdom.
Our “Day of the Ordinary Pilgrim” will include attending the Papal Audience and enjoying a walking tour of Baroque Rome led by Dr. Robert Moynihan. While in Assisi, we will encounter the life of St. Francis, the “Extra-Ordinary Pilgrim.” Finally, we will spend a day with Mary and the importance of mission. Along the way, we will also visit the sites of two Marian apparitions that occurred in Rome.
Of course, at the heart of our pilgrimages is “encounters” and in addition to encountering the Greatest Holy Presences, we have planned time with “living stones of faith,” special friends working in and around the Vatican that always bring thoughtful, enriching and engaging reflections to our pilgrimage experience. And then there are the unplanned encounters…we wonder what the Holy Spirit has in store for us!