Select International Tours Blog

Are you a pilgrim or a tourist?

Are you a pilgrim or a tourist?

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.

MATTHEW KELLY is the founder of Dynamic Catholic and the bestselling author of more than 20 books, published in 25 languages. His latest is Resisting Happiness.

Taste of Tradition through Travel

Taste of Tradition through Travel

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!

Click here to read more.

10 Best Biblical Verses About Travel

10 Best Biblical Verses About Travel

Some wonderful Bible verses to keep in mind on your next pilgrimage from Eliza Myers at

The constant movement between meals, hotels and daily attractions can make a trip go by in a blur. To reflect on the importance of your journey, you need to incorporate time for reflection into your itinerary. Many faith-based groups love to accomplish this with scheduled short services full of prayer and scripture. These 10 Biblical verses about travel can prove useful in crafting a service that prepares your group’s hearts for the journey ahead.


  1. On safety: Psalm 121:7-8  “The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.”
  1. On trusting the Lord during your trip: Psalm 23:3-4  “He gives me new strength. He leads me on paths that are right for the good of His name. Even though I walk through a very dark valley, I will not be afraid, because you are will me. Your rod and your shepherd’s staff comfort me.”
  1. On letting the Lord be in control: Proverbs 16:9  “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
  1. On keeping God with us on the journey: Psalm 19:10  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
  1. On evangelization for mission trips: Mark 16:15  “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
  1. On reminding us that all are welcome: Luke 13:29   “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at the table in the kingdom of God.”
  1. On the majesty of God: Genesis 1:1-4   “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”
  1. On letting God lead the way: Exodus 13:21   “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so they could travel by day or night.”
  1. On walking the path God has laid out: Psalm 18:36  “You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.”
  1. On being thankful for God’s creation: 1 Timothy 4:4-6   “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.”
Santarem and Vila Viçosa

Santarem and Vila Viçosa

Some spectacular photographs taken in  Santarem and Vila Viçosa (Portugal) by Select International’s Office Administrator and pilgrim Isabel Augusto. She writes:

“The art and architecture are definitely worth the visit. The Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral in Santarem is spectacular. They have various activities to offer to visitors including a sample of the wines and desserts prepared by the nuns.Vila Viçosa’s orange trees were in full bloom. Impressive to say the least.”

Theology of Beauty Pilgrimage to Italy through Faith, Fashion & Food with Father Leo Patalinghug and Leah Darrow

Your might call this a Catholic pilgrimage for foodies and fashion buffs.  You will see Milan, the “Fashion Capital of the World” see the original painting of the Last Supper, travel to Turin, then Bologna (some of the best food in all of Italy), enjoy a cooking lesson (you will eat what you cook!), on to Verona, ending in Venice ( a full day in Venice) and much more.

With Mass every day and inspiring talks, this will be one of the best experiences of your life.

For those who wish, there is an optional extension to Rome:  the group will travel by train from Venice to Rome where they will spend three days in “The Eternal City” visiting Saint Peter’s BasilicaSaint Mary Major, attend the weekly Papal AudienceTre Fontane and more.

Read more at The Catholic Travel Guide Blog by clicking here.

Gus Lloyd: Holy Land Pilgrimage

Gus Lloyd: Holy Land Pilgrimage

Gus Lloyd, host of “Seize the Day” on Sirius XM Radio and a Select International Group Leader writes in his blog: “After finishing all of the blog posts from our trip to the Holy Land, I knew there would be a bunch of stuff that I didn’t have time to share. So I went through the nearly 1000 photos I shot and have picked out a few of my favorites from things we saw and experienced that you weren’t able to see in the original posts. I’ll give just a brief explanation of each. So glad we could take you with us!”

See more fun and inspiring photos in his blog at:

Real Life Catholics

Fr. Joseph Mary (Fatima & Santiago in September) is featured prominently in an EWTN video that aired a couple days ago. The video is “Real Life Catholics” – Fr. Joseph & the Friary is at about 15 – 20 minutes in. See the video by clicking here.


Is God calling you to go on a pilgrimage?

Pilgrimages are not a new thing. People have journeyed to places of special spiritual significance for thousands of years. God calls on people to make pilgrimages. Going back to the time of the ancient Hebrews, the faithful were called to journey to Jerusalem on a regular basis — no easy task when travel was limited to walking or the use of a camel or donkey.

Even today pilgrimages are not easy. They often require long travel days by plane or on the bus, multiple hotel changes, eating food we are not used and keeping up with a busy schedule of long days often involving hours of walking.

Pilgrimages are not vacations. They are so much more than a vacation!

Even the Holy Family  made a pilgrimage from Nazareth to Jerusalem. So Our Lord himself participated in pilgrimages.  By going on a pilgrimage you are cooperating  with God’s will for you to visit  holy place. God may touch your heart in a special way, as he has touched the hearts of thousands of pilgrims, he may give your clarity about a particular issue that has been on your mind or he may lead you in a new direction in your life.

The most important part of a pilgrimage is to open your heart to hear how God is calling you, to receive the grace He is offering you, and to answer His call.

In participating in a pilgrimage, it is very important to open one’s heart to encounter God on his own terms. A pilgrimage takes us out of our normal environment and places us in a spot where God can make a special connection with us. Our job is to present and in the moment so the God encounter may come. 

All of us should be open to hearing God’s call and determine if he is asking us to make a pilgrimage. It may be to the Holy Land, or it may to be another place of spiritual significance. 

There are many other places where pilgrims find spiritual fulfillment, such as Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Assisi in Italy, Guadalupe in Mexico and even nearby places such as the Shrines of Philadelphia, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-deBeaupré in Quebec, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, the site of recently approved Marian apparitions in Wisconsin.

Open you heart and ask yourself if this is the year that God is calling you to make a special connection with him in a special place…to become a pilgrim.

How to be a good pilgrim?

More and more, group leaders who want to help pilgrims get the full pilgrimage experience are faced with overcoming a fixation with images and technology that completely overshadows experiencing the reality of setting off on a journey, meeting new people, exploring different cultures, and entering into prayer.

People at audiences and Masses with the Pope, see the pope through their camera lenses, cellphones, and iPads. The same thing happens at Christian holy sites around the world.

Best approach is to encourage pilgrims to live the experience and, if the experience is so powerful, then try to immortalize it with an image, but don’t start off with the image.

Other modern obstacles to an authentic pilgrim experience are Facebook or other social networks and the general ease of communicating with others anywhere in the world.

Being connected through the electronic device while traveling takes out attention for the experience of travel. It connects us to our lives at home, not what we are experiencing on the trip. Why travel just to be back home? 

We want to share our experience yet oftentimes preoccupation with sharing on social media obstruct a our ability to be present and engaged in the moment. We are present but absent if we are not completely focused on the here and now. That kind of absenteeism that’s becoming very pronounced, even in our pilgrimages, is prevalent in our busy lives.

We go on a pilgrimage to escape the chaos and to reconnect with ourselves, with family and friends, with a destination, a culture, but most of all with God.

Let’s give ourselves and those traveling with us the honor of being in the moment. Let’s give God our full focus and attention while on a pilgrimage. 

People’s minds, hearts, and souls need time to move from thoughts of work, home, or school. We need time to decompress from our hectic existence and become attuned to prayer, fellowship and reflection which are the gifts of being on a pilgrimage.

Preparing pilgrims in advance of the trip for the pilgrimage, informing them about what to expect and asking them to focus on being present, in the moment and on the trip will bring about huge blessings for the entire group.

All people need a break from the daily grind now and then.  If people aren’t traveling for work, they usually either are “running away from something or searching for something”, a priest friend recently said.

The key difference between leisure travel and a pilgrimage is the search for a spiritual encounter.  Religious experience has a corporal dimension. When people are in search of a deep religious experience, the body somehow needs to be involved.  So setting off from home and going on a pilgrimage is quite natural, not only for Christians, but also for members of most other major religions.

Christian pilgrimage is all about encounters! Group travel enables us to share our encounter with other seekers and believers, but also being to be encouraged by them or learning from them how to move closer to the encounter with God. Unfortunately, though, too many people today focus so much on getting to the holy places and sharing what they are seeing on social media that they lose sight of the fact that a pilgrimage is a journey. The road is the pilgrimage and it prepares you for the encounter. While a pilgrimage is a purposeful break from one’s normal routine, it’s not a break from rules and good manners. It’s not a break from patience, tolerance and acceptance.   

A pilgrimage is putting order into your life, going back to put real order in your life — order in terms of your relationships with other persons, order in terms of your relationship with God.  A pilgrimage is an opportunity to recover that harmony that has been lost through everyday life. That’s why going on a pilgrimage is a deeply religious experience if we allow it to be.   

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