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of a Lifetime

One of our pilgrims wrote about his beautiful experiences while on our pilgrimage. He compellingly invites you to share his experiences.
by Don Pennell

On October 10 my wife and I undertook a pilgrimage to Fatima and some of the other holy places in Portugal, Spain and France.

No matter what the cost, after 40 years of enduring round churches, square churches, church altars draped in rainbow cloth, uncountable liturgical abuses, incessant noise, hand holding and handshaking, we had to renew our downtrodden spirits.

We had seen pictures of Europe’s grand Cathedrals and their magnificent altars, and we knew we needed to see and experience our Old World Catholic heritage.

The tour’s first stop was the birthplace of St. Anthony. At the very moment I entered the church, I knew and felt that for the next two weeks I was about to walk where the Saints had walked, kneel where the Saints had knelt, and pray where the Saints had prayed.

As I knelt to pray at the altar I was overcome with emotion, for I was looking at the most magnificent altar one could behold. Nothing like anything I had ever seen in North America. Upon leaving the church, I thought to myself, and eventually asked the question out loud, with all the abundance of wealth in North America, why could we not build a church like that?

At Fatima, with 60,000 fellow pilgrims, we witnessed a candlelight procession that sent chills up our spines. Basking in the presence of Our Lady of Fatima we felt as one with the rest of the pilgrims. The pomp, the ceremony, the singing, the wonder of it all, certainly renewed the downtrodden spirit.

While at Fatima and throughout the rest of the tour, when possible, our spiritual director gave a one-hour talk after our evening meal. Using Fatima like the hub of a wheel, daily we traveled to the various local towns where Lucy as a little girl, and later in life, Sister Lucy as a nun, continued her journey toward sainthood.

As one who loves history, I was in my element. At Batahlia, Our Lady of Victory, a gothic Cathedral over 800 years old, was a breathtaking sight. I put my hand against the outer wall of the church and somehow I thought I could feel 800 years of history.

So it was throughout our tour, we visited shrines, cathedrals, churches and convents.

Each, it seemed, was built to outdo the other in design and beauty. The visual grandeur of the altars in each church only deepened and enhanced our faith. As our pilgrimage spiritual director explained, you begin by focusing your eyes at the bottom of the tapestry or altar, but eventually your eyes and head move to the top of the altar and envelop the Crucified Christ, your eyes, and so your soul, always end up looking to Heaven.

We knew what was lacking in our churches at home, and we knew what we found on our pilgrimage, it was the outward dignity and majesty of what a Catholic church could and should be.

Within a Shrine over 1000 years old with a magnificence that is indescribable, imagine touching the tomb of Saint James, Our Lord’s apostle. If I come across as overly enthusiastic, I am. For nowhere in North America can you touch outwardly or feel inwardly the dynamics of your Catholic faith.

Our trip through the Pyrenees mountains was picturesque and almost overwhelming, comparable only to our North American Rocky Mountains.

To bathe in the waters of Lourdes, for only a few seconds of course, was a thrill. It was cold, and snapped me to attention, but upon leaving the baths I was exhilarated. The experience we had at Lourdes was much like Fatima. Each is a different story, each a different experience.

So many other places we visited over the two weeks only magnified our experience of the first day. So much to tell you, but so little space.

As magnificent were the cathedrals, as beautiful were the altars, and as lifelike were the statues, the traditional Latin Mass offered daily was the truest and longest lasting blessing for all of us on the pilgrimage.

Back to the secular world. There is an old saying “you can’t take it with you”, money that is. But you CAN take it with you, on the next pilgrimage. I have heard many times that people save their money as a legacy for their children. My suggestion is to give them what’s left over after you take the pilgrimage of a lifetime.

Do not deny yourself the spiritual fruits of your lifetime of labor.

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