Select International Tours Blog
If you are like most pilgrims, you are probably wondering what to do if things happen on your trip. Rather than wonder, take a look through these frequently asked “What-ifs” and put your mind at ease.
You miss a connecting flight, or your flight is canceled
Don’t panic. Flights are delayed and connections are mixed every day. Stay calm, follow this list and you will be on your way in no time.
Ask the airline how they are going to accommodate you and when you will depart
They may not know immediately, so be kind but persistent. Remind them that you are on a group tour with a specific schedule. Continue asking until you get an answer.
If you are with a Group of other Pilgrims
Try to stay together and elect a spokesperson to communicate with the airline, Select International, and the guide. When speaking with the airline, tell them that you are a group traveling together. Remain patient, pleasant, and persistent.
Keep receipts for everything!
If you eat, use a hotel, taxi, etc., you may be able to recoup the costs with a Travel Protection Claim.
REMEMBER: Be you own best advocate
You are in the best position to work with the airline. Be polite, but firm. Ask for answers and continue to communicate what you need. When you are rebooked, contact Select and your Guide to give them the new flight details.
Your luggage is lost
Lost luggage usually catches up with you in a day or two, but it can make things challenging in the meantime. Prevention is the best strategy. Make sure your bag is easy to spot in a crowded airport and have a picture of it on your phone.
If your bag is missing, enlist the help of travel companions and fellow pilgrims. If you have a picture of your bag on your phone, share it with them now. If you still cannot find it. Notify your guide and then head to the lost-luggage counter to file a claim. Be sure to have your itinerary with you, so you can give them addresses of the hotels where you will be staying. Keep all the paperwork in case you have to file a Travel Protection Claim.
You cannot locate your Guide on arrival
Don’t panic. Call the Guide. If they don’t answer immediately, leave a message and try again in a few minutes. Your Guide and Bus may be circling the airport to pick you up. If you have not found them within 30 minutes of arriving, please call the Ground Operator (listed in your documents). They will have the latest information on the location of your guide and transfer vehicle.
If you cannot reach either of them within 60 minutes, call the Select International 24-Hour phone number listed on the front of this document.
Your Passport is missing
A missing passport does not need to derail your trip! We have a whole post for you on this topic. It can be found HERE.
There is a problem with your hotel room
Contact reception at the Hotel. If they cannot/will not address your issue, contact your guide for assistance. Your guide is the best person to help with nearly any situation you encounter. She or he are familiar with the locations, language, and customs of your destination and they are there to help you have the best experience possible.
You get separated from your group
Contact the Guide. Make sure that you write down their phone number on your Passport Supplement (which will arrive with your travel documents). If you cannot reach them, contact your Bus Buddy. What is a Bus Buddy? Great question!
When you are traveling, it is good practice to exchange contact information with someone else on your bus. This way, if you get separated from the group, you can let them know so you can reconnect. If you are traveling with someone else, you should STILL find another Bus Buddy, in case you and your travel companion become separated from the group.
You become sick or injured
Alert your guide immediately. They will assist you in finding necessary help. Keep receipts for everything! You will need them to file a Travel Protection Claim. It is important to understand that you may have to pay for medical services, out-of-pocket. If you have purchased Travel Protection Insurance, keep records and receipts for claims. If you are admitted to a hospital, Travel Protection Insurance companies will often guarantee payment ahead of treatment. As soon as you are able, contact the Travel Protection Insurance company to alert them to the situation and begin a claim.
In all other circumstances
It is always best to speak with your guide first. They can assist with most situation and resolve any situations as soon as they occur.
UPDATE February 24, 2020
We continue to monitor the news regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus), and we have been in regular communication with our partners overseas and Travel Insured. We are aware of the news reports regarding some of the countries to which we travel. However, we have no special knowledge of any situations regarding the specific locations where our trips operate.
Select International Tours and Cruises (SITC) will not be canceling any trips at this time and our standard cancellation policy applies on any cancelled trip. Considering the many destinations that SITC travels and due to the uncertainty regarding the spread, containment, and global response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we have and continue to strongly encourage all travelers to purchase Travel Protection Insurance, to protect their travel investment. You may purchase travel protection through our carrier—Travel Insured International—or purchase a policy which meets your needs directly online with another insurance provider.
Please read through your Travel Protection group plan and consider speaking with a licensed insurance specialist to understand your coverage, options, and policy. Please direct questions regarding insurance directly to your Travel Protection Insurance carrier. If you have purchased travel insurance through SITC, your insurance carrier is Travel Insured International. They may be reached at 1-844-440-8113.
Travelers who have trips with SITC, which are departing in the next thirty-days, should watch their email for more specific information. Please be sure that email addresses from “@select-intl.com” are whitelisted by your email provider. If you do not see an email within 48 hours, please check SPAM/Junk folders.
We continue to pray for healing and wisdom as the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health officials, doctors, medical staff, and volunteers around the world work to contain this outbreak.
Select International Tours and Cruises is committed to your health and safety. We have been monitoring information regarding the Novel Coronavirus closely. Currently, the virus is not a concern for any of our departures. However, we will continue to watch for changes as the situation progresses. If the virus becomes a concern on any of our trips, we will notify passengers accordingly. Please join us in praying for healing and wisdom as the World Health Organization, health officials, doctors, medical staff, and volunteers around the globe work to contain this outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes that this virus spreads from close contact (<6′) with an infected person and is contracted via, “…respiratory droplets…” from coughs and sneezes. They are unsure, at this time, whether it can spread by germs on surfaces. Symptoms may include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms are present within 2-14 days of exposure.
The CDC reccommends the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
What You Should Do
- Stay informed – CDC is updating its website daily with the latest information and advice for the public. (www.cdc/ncovexternal icon)
- Remember to take everyday preventive actions that are always recommended to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.
- Avoid close contact with sick people. While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol.
- If you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have traveled to China or were in close contact with someone with 2019-nCoV in the 14 days before you began to feel sick, seek medical care.
- Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
What You Should Not Do
- Do not travel to China.
- Do not use facemasks. CDC does not recommend the use of facemasks for the general public to prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV.
- Do not show prejudice to people of Asian descent, because of fear of this new virus.
- Do not assume that someone of Asian descent is more likely to have 2019-nCoV.
For the latest information from the CDC, regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
For the latest travel recommendations from the WHO to reduce exposure and transmission of illness, please visit:
Losing a passport while traveling doesn’t have to ruin your overseas trip. There are a variety of ways travelers can protect themselves and obtain emergency replacements. Still, sometimes things go awry, headaches and unexpected costs can pile up when you don’t have back-up plans.
Recently, one of our group leaders—while traveling with their group in Barcelona—had her bag stolen in a restaurant. The bag was slung over the back of her chair. While she got up to go to the buffet someone took her bag, including all her money, credit cards, and her passport. This was on the second day of a twelve-day trip, which included a seven-day Mediterranean cruise sailing to three different countries.
Our group leader immediately reported the incident to the restaurant management and insisted the police be called and a report filed. She then took a cab to the American Consulate where she was told she could be issued a passport the next day. The problem was that the ship was sailing that evening.
She went to the cruise ship but was denied boarding as she did not have proper documentation. She helped her group of 42 people board and went back to the hotel where they were staying. The hotel was sold out and she had no reservations, but they helped her find nearby accommodations. She had borrowed money from the group for out of pocket expenses which were now piling up. She called Select International’s Office from the hotel and we were able to get her a copy of her passport which helped with the American Consulate.
The next day she returned to the American Consulate and received her new passport. However because the ship had already sailed and was at sea for the next two days she missed out on that part of the trip, her group was without their tour leader, and she had to incur additional out-of-pocket expenses to purchase an airline ticket to meet up with the cruise ship, pay for additional meals, hotels, and transportation service. Two days later with a brand-new passport in hand and over $ 1200.00 in unplanned expenses she had caught up with the group.
Here a few things you can do to protect yourself from the added aggravation, expenses, and lost trip time that a thief or pickpocket can invite:
- Don’t carry your passport on you unless you must (i.e. when changing hotels or are informed by the tour manager to bring it). Most hotel rooms have safe deposit boxes where you can leave your passport, money and a spare credit card.
- When you must carry your passport, always carry it on your person or in a bag that you never take off, or at least one that you only place on your lap during meals. NEVER hang your bag on the back of a chair or leave it on your seat while getting food or using the washroom.
- Don’t carry expensive jewelry with you while traveling and if you do leave it in the hotel room in the safe deposit box unless you are wearing it.
- Leave a copy of your passport in the safe deposit box and another one at home with a family member or a friend. If you are traveling with a companion, each should carry a copy of the other’s passport.
- Prepare a separate list with your credit card info (without the security code) and cc company phone numbers (which you will need to report a stolen card) with you also to be left in the safe deposit box.
- Don’t carry all your cash with you and when you must, carry it in two or more locations (i.e. some in a purse and the rest in a money belt).
- Be sure to empty out the safe deposit box before you check out of the hotel.
- Your phone should always be password protected just in case it too is stolen.
In the rare case that your property is stolen, always insist on calling the local police and filing a report. With a copy of the passport and the report go to the nearest American Consulate or Embassy where they will be able to issue you a new passport usually within 24 hours.
Be sure to call your credit card company as soon as possible to report the stolen card.
Never pack your passport in your suitcase! It should be on you whenever you are carrying it.
Being prepared is the key to carefree travel!
“Oh, please be careful. It’s so dangerous over there.”
I knew my friend meant well, but her words were not comforting. I was only a few days away from departing for the Holy Land and my nerves were already raw from packing, checking flights, reading weather reports, finding someone to care for my cat, and scheduling a ride to the airport.
I had dreamed about visiting the places where Jesus walked since High School. That dream was jaded by year upon year of news reports featuring skirmishes and wars in and around Israel. The picture the media had painted was unnerving. I wanted to be excited, but in all honesty, I was a little scared and my friend’s words were not helping.
A family-member drove me to the airport, warning me on the way to, “please be careful.” Was I making a mistake? Was I putting myself in harm’s way? I am normally very excited to get on a plane, but all these warnings made me very anxious.
I flew through Toronto on my way to Tel Aviv. The first flight was uneventful, and I arrived with plenty of time to make my connection. I found my next gate on the monitor and headed there to wait for boarding. When I arrived, there was an additional security checkpoint…only for our gate. I had never experienced this before. I waited in the line and reached the guard who examined my passport and boarding pass and asked me a few questions. He directed me to yet another bag check.
My mind raced. Why is there so much security? Is there a threat? Is something wrong? Should I walk away from this flight? The questions echoed in my head as I eyed every passenger waiting for the flight. With each reverberation, I heard the words of my loved ones, “Please, be careful.” It was only through the grace of Our Lord that I boarded that flight. My mind was working overtime to convince my body to abandon it.
If you have never traveled to Israel, I imagine you are facing the same fears that I did. I imagine that the news, friends, and family are warning you to, “please be safe,” as well. Most of all, I imagine that you are asking the same question that I did; “Is this trip even worth the risk?”
Let me put your mind at ease. Yes, it is worth the risk. And, perhaps more importantly, the “risk” is unjustly amplified. I have never traveled anywhere in the world where I felt safer than the Holy Land. Now that I have traveled there and back, I would return in a heartbeat! But I did learn a lot along the way that might help you feel a little more prepared for your trip.
I learned that additional security is normal for Israel. In fact, the security in place while boarding a flight is only the beginning. There are special restrictions to stay in your seats while in Israeli air-space. There are multiple security stops in the immigration and customs line. And, while traveling through the country, there are random security checkpoints on roads and at Palestinian Territory borders.
It was initially unnerving to answer questions of a security officer dressed in military fatigues and holding a weapon, but, in my experience, they were always pleasant and calm. They asked simple questions, checked my passport, then sent me on my way.
Crime and Common Precautions
Crime rates, in most cases, are significantly lower in Israel than the USA*. Violent crime is significantly less common. Still, this doesn’t mean you should be naïve. Petty theft from pickpockets and burglaries at tourist hotels still happen. So, take the same precautions you would take when traveling to any major city: use the hotel safe, carry a secure backpack or purse, and keep all your belongings on you.
When you stop to rest, eat, or sightsee, keep your belongings attached to your person or on your lap. Don’t leave your bag on the ground or hanging on your chair. Additionally, ALWAYS carry your passport and leave a photocopy in the hotel safe.
The political complexity of the Middle East requires additional patience from travelers. Mentally prepare yourself and expect to wait in security lines, answer questions about your travels, and show your passport. Pay attention to your guides’ instructions. They are familiar with the checkpoints and security requirements and their insight can significantly reduce the inconvenience. Security personnel are simply doing their job to keep everyone safe. A warm smile and friendly demeanor on your end will often be met with the same from them.
Departing Israel from the airport is far different from most places in the world. There are multiple security checkpoints and it can take much longer than usual to get from the curb to your gate, so be patient and allow yourself plenty of time.
On my most recent trip, we were stopped in the car—before entering the airport—for twenty minutes. They checked my bag, asked me and the driver several questions, and checked my passport and flight documents. When entering the airport, I had to go through two security checkpoints before entering the bag check. At the second checkpoint, they asked me several questions then instructed me to one of four bag-check lines.
In Israel, they profile every traveler and send them to a specific line depending on their “reading” of the individual. Don’t let this frustrate you. It is just part of the trip. While standing in the bag-check line, you will be asked the same questions you were already asked several times. Again, a warm smile and friendly demeanor will serve you well. They will check your bag thoroughly…meaning they may remove every item and inspect it, x-ray it, chemically test it, or even ask you questions about it. The process takes significantly longer than a TSA check in the USA, so exercise patience.
On my most recent trip, I arrived at the airport 3 hours and fifteen minutes before my flight. After all the security checkpoints and bag-check, I arrived at my gate, ready to board, with forty minutes to spare. The whole process took two hours and thirty-five minutes.
After a long flight, I walked to the Immigration officer at Newark International Airport. She glanced at my passport and asked how long I had been in Israel. “Seven days,” I replied.
“Wow. Short trip. Welcome home.” She waved me through.
I found my friend waiting for me outside the bag check. “Well, how was it?” She asked.
“Great. Israel is nothing like I expected. I can’t wait to go back.” I said.
Yes, really. My trip was short, but life-changing. There really is no way to translate all that happened to me in the Holy Land. I know that I’ll never be the same after the trip. I can see the whole story of our faith so differently now. And when friends ask me if Israel was frightening to visit, I tell them, “It was, no big deal.” They think I’m an intrepid traveler, but really, I’m just being honest.
*According to nationmaster.com (accessed September 12, 2019)
Michelle and Gus Lloyd walked the Camino de Santiago with a group of 26 pilgrims in August of 2019. If you have any doubt how much a pilgrimage like this can impact a person, we invite you to read Michelle’s letter to her Doctor. It is always wonderful to hear stories like this from group leaders and pilgrims on Select International trips.
September 5, 2019
Dear Dr. Lyons,
Hello! I hope this letter finds you well. I just wanted to reach out to you to share a recent adventure I was part of. First, a little back story. Last August, my husband, Gus was able to begin a bucket list trip with about 25 other people of walking the first half of the Camino de Santiago, a 480 mile walk that has many routes to get to the final destination of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Not sure if you are familiar with it, but about 10 years ago the movie “The Way” came out about it and there are many others as well, but if you are at all curious, I would recommend watching “I’ll Push You” as it is a very inspirational story of two friends who do the Camino together and one of them is a quadriplegic.
In 2013, I came to see you and scheduled my first total knee replacement but I ended up cancelling the surgery because we decided to move and I didn’t have time to deal with it then. Funny fact, the night before that surgery was supposed to take place, I saw you at Lowe’s in Carrollwood in the carpet department. Eventually, my pain got so bad that I didn’t want to get up off the couch to do anything because it hurt so badly with each step I took, so I decided to look into stem cells procedures after a friend of mine shared a Facebook ad with me. I felt like I really got my confirmation to go forward with that at church the Sunday before I began the procedures when I heard this scripture from Hebrews 12: 12-13 for the first time that said. “So strengthen your drooping hands and week knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed, but HEALED”. Sounds like a confirmation, right?? So I did the procedures twice on both knees but I never found the relief that I need to have an active life. So my husband started hounding me and asking our friend who lives in Kansas that is also an Orthopedic Surgeon to talk to me to try and convince me to just go ahead and bite the bullet and do the surgery. Honestly, my husband was ticking me off but I know now that he just couldn’t stand seeing the person he loved be in so much pain anymore and just wanted to try to help me find the answer I needed to get my life back So, unbeknownst to him, I had made an appointment to see you and scheduled my first total knee replacement with you about ? weeks before Gus left for Spain last year. I was obviously not able to go with him. You did my second total knee replacement in December of 2018 and I was 8 months out from that surgery when it was time for Gus and his group to go back to Spain to finish the walk this year. I decided that I wanted to go, not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into, (in hindsight, that was probably better). Now, I have always been a person who would work out to videos to keep in shape but I was never a hiker or runner. This year’s journey began in Leon, Spain and ended in Santiago. We walked 8 stages to complete the mileage needed to finish the walk (an average of 15 miles per day). The terrain was very difficult, especially the first two days, filled with many mountain climbs and many boulder-filled paths going down for miles. I believe at the end of the 2nd day the grade of going up the mountain was 23 %. Can you say, out of breath? Each day proved to be a very strenuous walk where I felt it in some part of my body, if not everywhere, but I have to tell you, MY KNEES FELT GREAT THE WHOLE TIME! I guess, maybe because I actually had the youngest knees on the trip! If I had any issues, it was with my feet which is to be expected walking 15-17 miles per day but I also have Morton’s Neuroma in my right foot to deal with. As I began each day, I knew we were going to walk, but I didn’t know what journey would unfold before me that day until I actually experienced it, but the one thing that resonated with me throughout the whole trip was a sense of THANKFULNESS. THANKFULNESS for the beautiful vistas I was able to see and walk through each day, THANKFULNESS for the people I was able to share this experience with, THANKFULNESS that I have a husband that has an adventurous spirit that he has shared with me, THANKFULNESS for the feeling that I actually feel like an athlete now, THANKFULNESS for all that I was able to accomplish each day, THANKFULNESS for being hounded by my huband to get the surgeries, ( I told him that I really got the sense as I walked that me not wanting to be cut open again made me realize that I was kind of like an alcoholic, in that, I had to hit rock bottom with my pain in order for me to bite the bullet and have the surgery done not only once but twice), THANKFULNESS for God answering my prayer through the scripture He gave me, even though it wasn’t through the stem cell healing that I wanted, but most of all, THANKFULNESS that I had a doctor that was the first one in his family to get a college degree and that I was blessed to have YOU and your knowledge and skill to perform my surgeries and GIVE ME MY LIFE BACK! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, for following the call on your life Dr. Lyons! We are all capable of doing so much more than we ever think possible and I’m so glad to say that I would never have known this without your help in my life! I am forever grateful! Know that you are changing the lives of your patients.
May God continue to bless you abundantly!
Most of our clients are concerned about medical coverage while traveling abroad. We always recommend the purchase of a good Travel Protection policy which includes coverage in case of illness or accident. The Travel Protection (Travel Insurance) policy provides peace of mind for you in case you need medical attention during your trip.
Select International Tours and Cruises offers an excellent policy through Travel Insured. Please refer to your trip page for details or call us at 800-842-4842.
Many travelers will call us to ask if they are covered by their current health insurance policy or Medicare. We recommend you call your insurance to clarify coverage. However, sometimes the information about coverage is confusing and even conflicting.
According to Medicare.gov, Medicare usually doesn’t cover health care if you need it when traveling abroad.
Here is the link to Medicare.gov which addresses the issue of coverage during international travel. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/travel
You may purchase a Medigap policy which will cover you during international travel. Here is the link to the information you may find useful.
Important to Remember: Most foreign-based medical service providers will want to get paid on the spot. They will provide the paperwork for you to file a claim when you return but they will not do this work for you, nor will they be willing to wait for payment, so be sure you have a credit card you can use for emergency medical expenses.
Be sure to get copies of all your medical records from the medical service providers abroad as well as copies of all invoices and payments. Upon return to the USA, it is important to share your medical records with your doctor and file a claim with Medicare or another insurance company if you have a different policy or supplemental coverage. They may deny it but the system is so confusing it is worth a try.
The travel company cannot advance funds for any medical service!
The Catholic Feminist Podcast is, “…a podcast for Jesus-loving women who want to be inspired, involved, and intentional. Each week, we speak with women who are living out their faith in a radical, real way.”
That is a mission which is easy for us to get behind!
Select International Tours and Cruises is excited to announce our partnership with the Catholic Feminist Podcast. We understand that the word “feminist” is not usually associated with “Catholic.” Which is one of the reasons we are so excited about this partnership.
Words have the power to elicit an emotional response—we can all agree on that—but sometimes the emotional response is based on our experience of the groups that speak the word the loudest.
The word, “feminist,” is an excellent example. For many, the word dredges up a cloud of mire. Associations with competing social agendas, lifestyle choices, and political ideologies come to mind and the easiest thing for us to do is put the word in a box labeled, “Poison.” Is that really the best response?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, feminism is, “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Weigh that definition against Genesis 1:27-28, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (RSVCE).
Can One Be Both Catholic and Feminist?
In a recent interview on Grottonetwork.com, show host Claire Swinarski answered the question this way: “…people don’t feel you can be both because society has completely warped the idea of what a ‘feminist’ is.”
“The Church asks us to value women, embrace their gifts, and uphold their place in society. It does so within the writings of Edith Stein and John Paul II too many times to count. So it isn’t so much that there’s a ‘middle ground’ as it is a full embrace of Church teachings.”
Why This Podcast?
The decision to support the Catholic Feminist Podcast did not come lightly. The title caught our attention and we wanted to know more. A few episodes later, we could see how important this podcast was in bringing attention to women’s issues and proving that a strong faith was not at odds with being a strong woman.
Consider this episode with Colleen Carroll Campbell. If you are not familiar with Colleen, she is a best-selling author and speaker. She was also a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and served as a North American delegate to a Vatican Congress on Women. In this episode, she discusses the challenges of perfectionism and how she has learned, through the lives of the Saints, to “trade in [her] view of ‘perfect’ for God’s.” The Catholic Feminist Podcast brings topics like this into the light and discusses them in a way that honors God, Scripture, and the Church.
Supporting the work of The Catholic Feminist Podcast is directly supporting the myriad women of faith building a firm foundation of faith in their homes, churches, and workplaces. Our hope is that many of these women will hear about and go on pilgrimage. We pray that those experiences will deepen their faith, so they can continue to move their families, friends, and children toward a more developed experience within the Universal Church.
Here is a nice summary put together by Philip Niswonger – one of the pilgrims who recently traveled to the Holy Land with Msgr. Paul Bochicchio and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers.
By Mathew Kelly
My friend Fr. Bob Sherry and I have been hosting pilgrimages for a long time. Our current schedule includes three trips each year: the Holy Land; Lourdes and Paris (France); and Rome, Assisi, and Florence (Italy). On the opening night, we always ask our pilgrims the same question: Are you going to be a pilgrim or a tourist?
Tourists want everything to go exactly as they have planned and imagined it. They rush around making sure they cram everything in. They’re constantly buying souvenirs and knickknacks, many of which they will look at when they get home and wonder, “What was I thinking?” They focus on themselves, often shoving past others to get where they’re going. Tourists go sightseeing. Tourists count the cost.
Pilgrims are very different. They look for signs. If a flight gets delayed or canceled, they ask, “What is God trying to say to me?” Pilgrims aren’t concerned with seeing and doing everything, just the things they feel called to see and do. They’re not obsessed with shopping. They are aware of others’ needs. Pilgrims look for meaning. Pilgrims count their blessings.
The reality is we are all pilgrims. This planet we call earth is not our home; we are just passing through. We build homes and establish ourselves on earth in ways that ignore that we are really just here for short time. It’s a dangerous pastime to live as if you’re never going to die, but consciously or subconsciously we all fall into this trap to one degree or another.
In this life, we’re just passing through. The happiness that God created us for is different from the fleeting happiness and momentary pleasures of this world. God created us for lasting happiness in a changing world — and eternal happiness with him in heaven. The happiness he wants for us in this life is a rare kind of happiness that isn’t dependent on situations or circumstances. It’s easy to be happy when everything is going well, but Christian joy allows us to be happy like Paul was when he was in prison.
Do you ever think about heaven? It seems to me we don’t talk about it anywhere near as much as we should. When Rudyard Kipling was very seriously ill, a nurse asked him, “Is there anything you want?” He replied, “I want God!” We all do. We may not be aware of it, but we want Him. Behind every desire for a new car or a new house, a promotion or accomplishment, clothes and jewelry, plastic surgery, adventure and travel, food and sex, acceptance and comfort, is our desire for God. We are always hungry for something more complete, and God is the completeness that we yearn for from the depths of our soul.
We are just passing through, and it’s helpful to remind ourselves of that from time to time. In the context of eternity, we’re only here for the blink of an eye. Realizing this changes our priorities. At the same time, we’re here for a reason. You are here for a reason. God has a mission for you.
Life is a pilgrimage, a sacred journey. Typically, a pilgrimage takes us to a shrine or other location important to a person’s faith or beliefs. You can make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Rome, Fatima, Lourdes, the Camino, or any of the famous Catholic sites around the world. But you could also make a pilgrimage to your nearest cathedral. In fact, every Sunday you make a pilgrimage to your local parish to Mass.
Very often people make pilgrimages with special intentions in mind. Some ask God for a favor, perhaps to heal a loved one who is sick. Others make a pilgrimage in thanksgiving for a blessing they’ve already received from God. There are always couples on our trips who are celebrating a wedding anniversary. On every trip, Fr. Bob chooses one of the holy places and invites every couple to renew their marriage vows. Powerful!
Life is a pilgrimage, but sometimes you need a pilgrimage to discover life. We’re journeying in this life toward the sacred city, toward the heart of God — heaven. Nobody makes the journey alone. We all need companions. I’ve met some of my very best friends in this world on pilgrimages. These friends encourage us and challenge us to become the “best version of ourselves.” By doing so, they help us to get to heaven.
Let’s pray for the grace to be pilgrims and not just tourists. Let’s pray for the grace to be the kind of friend who helps others in the great pilgrimage of life. We’re just passing through this place we call earth. At every turn we’re tempted to be tourists, so spend some time today thinking about heaven.
By Fr. Leo Patalinghug
Part of my “calling” as a priest is to be a “missionary” preacher – someone who is sent to preach the Gospel of Jesus to all nations. That’s why traveling is such an important part of my ministry. As you may or may not know, I lead many pilgrimages, about four each year.
Stay tuned for my upcoming 2019 travel itineraries to the Holy Land, Croatia, Amalfi Coast & Sicily, and a “Taste of Italy” trip!
In a recent trip to Budapest, I learned so many new things about our Catholic Church’s influence in that unique part of the world. I visited Budapest many years ago as a seminarian, but I was so impressed by what I experienced in my recent trip – as a priest almost 20 years later!
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