Inside the Vatican Brief Overview of Pilgrimages Offered by US Pilgrimage Companies
By Inside the Vatican Staff
On April 11, 2015 Pope Francis issued Misericordiae Vultus, the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Within it the Pope highlighted the importance of pilgrimage, stating “The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.”
In an effort to help the faithful embrace the Pope’s call to conversion through pilgrimage, we at Inside the Vatican have organized this list of a few other organizations that can help create the right spiritual and travel experience. We would also highly recommend our own unique and spiritually fulfilling pilgrimages, which include a wide variety of locations and themes.
- Stephen Ray’s “Footprints of God” pilgrimages: These trips were started in the spirit of Stephen Ray’s popular movie documentaries, “The Footprints of God,” which follow the lives of saints and biblical figures by going to the places where they lived. Ray, a passionate Catholic convert, comes on all the tours with his wife, Janet. When they are not guiding the tours, they have the top Catholic authorities in the area help insure their travelers receive the best information and attention. They go to many special, scripturally significant locations and strive to provide a rich spiritual and travel experience.
- 206 Tours: This company has been hosting pilgrimages since 1985. It was started for the purpose of providing spiritual experiences to impact souls for the better. They specialize in helping individuals organize their own pilgrimages. They have a wide variety of location options, and affordable prices. They specialize in providing spiritually beneficial trips. They still offer many pilgrimages to Medjugorje, a destination which Church bishops in Bosnia have discouraged until the Holy See makes a decision about the supernatural nature of the apparitions and miracles. Their name is also based on the founder’s experience at Medjugorje.
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- Regina Tours: Regina Tours has also been hosting pilgrimages since 1985. They not only offer tours to the popular spots in the Holy Land and Europe, but also to important Catholic sites in Canada and Cuba. Their pilgrimages include interesting themes and events, but are geared towards larger groups, meaning individual attention and easy access to more information may be limited. Their prices are quite varied, ranging from affordable to expensive, and they also offer multiple trips to Medjugorje.
- The Catholic Pilgrim Office: A family owned and operated business, the Catholic Pilgrim Office have been organizing pilgrimages since 1977. They offer a number of customized trips to pre-formed groups of 15 or more. These trips are frequently focused around Catholic saints and Marian apparitions. There is no simple, easy way to check pricing, availability, or dates for many of the pilgrimages advertised on the site, because all the programs they offer are customized for each group. They work primarily with U.S. groups, and do not have many trips for individuals.
- The Best Catholic Pilgrimages: Best Catholic Pilgrimages is focused on creating enriching spiritual journeys that allow the participants to focus on the pilgrimage while the company handles all the little details. A priest or bishop accompanies every trip, including the tours that are more culturally than spiritually themed. Though they advertise that they have the best prices, the trips whose prices are available are not priced very competitively. And though they do have a wide variety of locations offered, in many different countries, there is a lack of specific information on the website.