On the morning of September, 11, 2001, I was living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. I had just started dating this really great guy, David, after praying a 54-day rosary novena, and life was good. That beautiful morning, as I made my way to work, I thought about how lucky David was to be flying to California for work on such a lovely day. As for me, I had just started a new diet and was trying to figure out what I would eat the next day when my girlfriends and I went out to see a movie.
Suffice it to say that after that day’s events, I very quickly nixed the diet and movie plans. As the days and weeks after dragged on, full of fear, uncertainty, and survival guilt, the last thing I could think of doing was going to see a movie or worrying about my weight. I was happy to be alive, whatever I weighed. The thought that people around the country were getting on with their lives and even enjoying themselves seemed surreal to me. Of course, I know now that there is little they could have done to make life easier for New York. Still, it was a difficult, frightening time.
Today, as I sit in my cushy office and look out at a beautiful blue-skied and puffy-clouded day, I ask myself the same question: what can I do to help the Christians in Iraq? The people of the Holy Land? The situation in Russia? The Congo? Or Ukraine?
You see, I have been invited to Dappled Things to blog about travel. Travel from a Catholic perspective, to be precise. My husband, David, and I (that novena really worked!) produce a travel series called The Faithful Traveler, which broadcasts on EWTN. Our goals are simple: we want to show you some of the many amazing sacred sites within the Catholic Church, we want to teach you about the stories or people behind them, and we want to encourage you to visit. I figure, if I can bring you closer, God will touch your hearts in ways only He knows you need.
I’m thrilled to be able to show you some of the amazing places I’ve been and the amazing places I want to go. To tell you about the saints I love and the God I love even more, and how so many places on this planet raise my heart and mind to him.
But right now, the world seems to be falling apart, doesn’t it? And the last thing I want to do is tell you to go out and travel and have a grand old time when people are being martyred and ruthlessly kicked out of their homes and countries.
So I’m not going to blog about travel. Not in a touristy sense, at least. Instead, I’d like to blog about pilgrimage, and how your travel, turned into pilgrimage, can actually help those people who are suffering and dying. Maybe even change the hearts of the ones who are killing them, too.
Let me say this up front: I am a Catholic, through and through. I was blessed to have been baptized as an infant and I am blessed to have never turned away from the faith with which I was blessed. Don’t get me wrong, I sin, like everyone else. But everything I see is seen through the eyes of faith. And so with that, I say, I believe in redemptive suffering and in offering up my suffering so that God might accept it in reparation for the sins committed by others, or so my sacrifices might prevent the sins of others.
This is why I believe that pilgrimage can help the current situation of the world. Go on pilgrimage. It doesn’t matter where. Go to the church down the street. Go to the closest monastery or cathedral. Go to a national shrine in your state or the next state over. Go to Europe. Go to Israel. Just go.
But when you go, offer up everything you suffer for those who are suffering more. Offer up your sufferings for the conversion of those who commit these atrocities. Make up sacrifices. Here are some ideas:
- As you make your way: pray; don’t listen to the radio or watch movies; if you’re driving, follow the speed limit and don’t get upset when someone tailgates you or cuts you off.
- Refrain from complaining, make a point of saying only nice things. SMILE, no matter what.
- Make food sacrifices: don’t eat meat, skip a meal, eat nothing but bread and water all day, don’t eat sweets, don’t eat that one thing you really, really want.
- At the pilgrimage site, pray all four mysteries of the rosary: joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious.
- Spend an hour praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, even if its in the Tabernacle. Pray on your knees.
- Make physical sacrifices: if it’s hot, wear something warm; if it’s cold, take something off (within reason); if you want to sit, stay standing; if you want to stand, stay seated.
Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and Lucia dos Santos, the little shepherds of Fatima who met the Virgin Mary long ago, were experts at making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the many offenses committed against God and the Blessed Mother.
They ate food they didn’t like without complaining, gave food they liked away, kept quiet about physical suffering they endured, and daily sacrificed the annoyances of having to recount the tale of the apparitions to strangers and unfriendly interrogators over and over and over again. They whipped their legs with prickly weeds and wore a rope tied around their waists that drew blood. Even God thought that was a bit much. He told them, through the Blessed Mother, not to wear it at nighttime. They prayed with their little foreheads touching the ground, like the Angel of Portugal taught them. Any little thing they could sacrifice, they would, and with every thing they sacrificed, they would say the prayer taught them by the Angel:
O JESUS, it is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Pilgrimage is so much more than just travel. It is prayer in action. And for those of us who believe that prayer is not nothing, you can and should feel confident that simply by spending a day in prayer at a nearby church or sacred site, you can help those being terrorized or who are suffering around the world.
Pray for the conversion of hearts.
Pray for mercy on those who are dying and those who are killing.
Pray for peace.
Your prayers are not nothing.
Diana von Glahn is the co-producer (along with husband, David), writer, editor, and host of The Faithful Traveler, a travel series on EWTN, that explores the art, architecture, history and doctrine behind Catholic churches, shrines and places of pilgrimage throughout the world. She is the author of The Mini Book of Saints. She blogs here twice a month, at SpiritualDirection.com, and on her own website, and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. Her first series, The Faithful Traveler in the US: East Coast Shrines, and her second series, The Faithful Traveler in the Holy Land, can both be seen on EWTN (check listings) and on her website, where she also sells DVDs of both programs. She has begun offering pilgrimage tours to sites where The Faithful Traveler has travelled.