Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tour or Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage - a word used for centuries by seekers of spiritual fulfillment, curiosity, and yearning, although a word I had never necessarily attached to any particular part of my heretofore personal traveling - until last week when my spouse and I, along with a multitude of other eager and interested tourists, diverted from our Mediterranean cruise ships to the site on an Ephesus (Kusadasi, Turkey) hillside to the reputed last known home of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For some reason as our bus fell into the long line of others, I found myself thinking - "When is it that a journey touted as educational turns into something related more to a pilgrimage than to a tour?"

As the bus wedged into an already seemingly packed parking lot, I felt a little skeptical about the Apostle John's retreat to these hills with Jesus' Mother at his side; then as the tour guide reiterated John's plan to teach and the need for Mary's safety if the teachings were not eagerly embraced, I realized that those factors might have indeed led him to this isolated place. My heart seemed to beat a bit faster; the day was quickly progressing toward more pilgrimage than tour.

Approaching the small, stoned cottage of honor, perhaps 650 square feet in size, it stood out among the now silent throngs eager to pass through the doors, front and through to the back - steadily, reverently, yearning for more time, as if in the presence of something or someone holy. The reverence of the crowd at the mere possibility of this having been a sacred home was palpable. Amidst the bus fumes, souvenir hawkers, and sightseers out for a little history and an interesting tour, what a delight and gift to experience the silence and respect washing over the waiting lines of visitors, many just becoming aware of the blessing of their own unexpected pilgrimage to this place.


  1. as you know (i think), i have been pondering much these same questions as to what makes something a pilgrimage and not just a tour. i am reading a great book called, "the art of pilgrimage" and it has many wonderful descriptions. i shall share one here:

    "the art of travel is the art of seeing what is sacred. pilgrimage is the kind of journeying that marks just this move from mindless to mindful, soulless to soulful."

    sounds like standing in line at that holy place made just such a shift "unexpected" or not.

    then again, i believe each day is a pilgrimage - a journey - and if we keep our minds and hearts open, it is soulful instead of soulless.

    glad you're back! xoxoxo

  2. Lucy, Thank you so much for your comments. I almost didn't write this post because I thought it might be too saccharine - but the moments were not saccharine - but sacred surprises for me. The quote you've left me here captures all that I was feeling more than one time on this journey. Thank you for your depth of understanding in responding to my comments - the pilgrimage that you begin next week will, no doubt, be filled with these moments of surprise, praise and thanksgiving!


  3. I'm just thrilled to hear about everyone's travels right now. You describe this so beautifully that I feel like I was there. When we were in Paris this spring we visited Sacre Cour in Montmarte. I was so looking forward to experiencing the hushed interior, to have a moment of prayer and reverence. When we arrived and looked up the hill it looked as though we were at the Alaska State Fair. There were jugglers and singers and people selling food and kitchy Eiffel towers. When we went inside there was actually a mass in session but we tourists continued to file through. (And people were talking!) We sat down and listened to the mass for 20 minutes or so and what we heard was beautiful. The only churches that you could find quiet and stillness were the small neighborhood churches off the tourist track.

  4. Rebecca, Thank you for the comments and for your reaction to this post. Traveling is an adventure isn't it? Having experienced the scene at the Sacre Cour that you describe, it makes the revelation of sacred moments even more impactful doesn't it? The moments we can make or find ourselves in the silence make for beautifully rich memories of a place. Thank you again for reading:)