On our pilgrimage to Italy, we started off in Assisi. St. Francis of Assisi was a radical person. To be Christlike, you have to be radical! That was a strong discernment that I realized there. I realized that for ministry today, or any time, people have to be radical, to put aside things. St. Francis was on fire for Christ. When you put forth that kind of life, you attract many people, as he did.
San Giovanni Rotondo moved me. St. Padre Pio was a Capuchin monk who lived there, and he was a saint for our times. I’d heard of Padre Pio when I was in the Army in the late 1950s. He was well-known throughout Europe. To be there, at that very site, was surely special.
Even though St. Padre Pio was so holy, he was very joyful. He would tell jokes to his fellow monks, and they would tell jokes back! He had a lot of camaraderie with them, and I think that’s important. Why did he have this joy? Because he had God. That’s the true joy; through Christ and through His Mother. St. Padre Pio had a saying: “Don’t worry!” That’s a good one, isn’t it? And why should you worry? If you’re living the life you should, and doing what you should, why should you worry?
I felt, at all these places, I was getting guidance from the saints. They tell us of the great treasure of the Church, the great majesty of it, the depth of it.
I’ve been on several pilgrimages with the Pilgrim Center of Hope. On pilgrimage, you have all kinds of people. You have the Cradle Catholics, who already have a large glass, and it’s pretty full. But it gets even deeper for them. You hear them say, “Wow. I’ve been hearing that Gospel all my life, and now I was at the place where it actually occurred.” For some, they’ve been away from the Church, and maybe they have a smaller glass. But it’s just a beginning. They can move forward. Every Catholic should take a pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage is only the beginning. When you come back, you have to be on guard so that you don’t just resume your normal life. You go back to work, you have the dynamics of your employment, your family, so forth. But you have to change. The pilgrimage is only part of the journey. For the rest of the journey, you have to become a different person. That’s the opportunity for transformation provided by a pilgrimage.
– Jack Moynihan