Thank you Spain.

DSC00007
Pilgrims outside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Thank you Spain!

Our first two days of our 2016 pilgrimage were spent in Barcelona Spain. Our first sleep in an actual bed since leaving in Auckland was 36 hours later at Hotel Coronado on Carrer Nou de la Rambla.

After unloading our gear at the hotel our first act of the pilgrimage was to give thanks to God for arriving safely in Spain. The first Mass of our pilgrimage was celebrated in the Cathedral Church of Barcelona, commonly called by the locals as La Seu. The imposing cathedral stands as an anchor to rich catholic history of Catalunya. Our Mass today being said in Catalan, the local dialect.

Being only day one of our conquest of Europe, and wanting to spare our pilgrims of a culture shock, our first meal in Europe was oh so American – Burger King!

After lunch we headed to the awe inspiring basilica of the Holy Family, Sagrada Familia, the unfinished masterpiece of the one-day-to-be saint, Antonio Gaudi. Coming out of the subterranean metro station, our pilgrims were immediately struck by the sheer size of this gargantuan monument to the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Entering into this other-worldly structure you are immediately caught up by the amazing use of light and colour. There are no straight lines in the architecture. The pillars which upholds this mammoth structure take their inspiration from nature, like mighty totara trees soaring towards heaven.

Our pilgrims were totally overwhelmed by the ethereal beauty of the basilica. Perhaps because their minds were totally blown away by the sheer size and beauty of this place that our first mishap occurred. Nothing major, but we lost one of our pilgrims who left via the wrong exit, causing a small panic amongst some of the group. Within a short time though, we were all reunited again.

The first day.

On the morning of the second day, our pilgrims set out on an hour long train ride to the mountain monastery of Montserrat. There are two ways to get to the monastery, by a rack railway or by Aeri, the cable car. Being intrepid pilgrims, we rode the cable car. Thirty five people crammed into the almost century old yellow cable car as it began its dramatic ascent up the jagged mountain.

Mass was celebrated in the basilica and then our pilgrims lined up to view the famous “Black Madonna” of Montserrat. The attendants at the door allowed small groups of people into a side door of the basilica, which for this year of Mercy had been designated as  Holy Door. Ascending a narrow staircase lined with mosaics of female saints, individuals approached the statue of the black Maddona and spent a few seconds of silent prayer. The statue itself sits proudly in a niche above the altar where she watches maternally on all who come to Montserrat.

Barcelona, you are beautiful. Gracias. Now, onto Lourdes.

 

 

 

 

Here we come…

This morning 17 intrepid pilgrims set out on a journey of faith. Why don’t you come with us!

At this moment we are sitting in the transit lounge at Changi Airport. For the pilgrims this is a small respite from the burdens of long hall travel. At the lounge, pilgrims have been treated to a massage, an opportunity for a shower and then a buffet of Asian cuisine with free flowing beverage.

In two hours we board our next 11 hour flight to Barcelona. During the flight, perhaps our hearts will be purged, opening ourselves up to the wonder that awaits.

It’s all good. God is good.

One more sleep…

Today our 2016 pilgrims gathered at St John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Otara, Auckland to be farewelled, commissioned and prayed for by our community.

What an awesome thing it is to belong!

Although 17 of us will board the plane tomorrow, we actually will be taking so many people with us; our families, our friends and our community. We are so very grateful for your prayerful support.

WP_20160102_08_59_01_Pro

Following this morning’s Mass and blessing of pilgrims, we shared breakfast with one another. Coming together particularly around food, is very much a part of our Pacific culture. When we can share food with one another, we offer hospitality – we become mindful of those around us. We give and we receive.

What a wonderful way to begin the final 24 hours of our preparation; by giving and receiving. May this mutual care for one another be a hallmark of our pilgrimage.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – For the greater glory of God.

 

 

Pilgrims on a journey.

What a journey its been! Back in 2012, my wife Pata and our daughter Paris went on a family holiday to Rome. I remember standing in St Peter’s Basilica thinking of all the people back home that we know who would love to be standing there with us. Then, through Divine Inspiration I’m sure, I thought, “Well bring them!”

So it began. When we returned to New Zealand, I immediately began sowing seeds about a possible group trip to Europe. The notion of a pilgrimage didn’t quite manifest itself until a considerable time later.

I set about the task of organising the itinerary and the logistical elements for the journey. It was then that I realised that this has to be more than just a trip or a holiday. The idea of pilgrimage then began to take root. Our journey to Rome, took on a brand new meaning. We would be pilgrims.

The word “pilgrim” comes from the Latin word “peregrinus”, which means “foreigner” or “stranger.” This word comes from per, meaning “through,” and ager, meaning “land.”

A pilgrim, then, is one who travels across or beyond his or her own land to enter an unknown landscape where the pilgrim is a stranger. As a stranger, the pilgrim can begin to see anew what can be missed easily in a landscape too familiar. God is present everywhere, but in the familiar we can sometimes miss what is right before our eyes.

Our first pilgrimage in 2013, set off from Otara as a group of nine. As a pilgrimage leader, I was still very much “green” about what a good pilgrimage leader should do and be. But armed with an unshakeable trust in God and with total reliance on him, I felt that this is what He was asking of me.

Our first pilgrims held a long desire to make this journey, some of them, from even before I was born! God, I felt, was using me, as “green” as I was, as a way of answering their prayers.

Our 2013 pilgrimage was a graced time for all of us, yet I was already thinking about the next pilgrimage even before the first one was over. Almost immediately after our return, I began working on the next pilgrimage.

Using the experience of our first pilgrimage, I was better equipped for the next. This has been true of each of the pilgrimages. It’s almost like Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former president of the International Olympic Committee, who at the end of each Olympic Games would declare, “These have been the best games ever!”. For me, I would say that of each pilgrimage.

As I write this, we are only 18 days away from beginning the 2016 Pilgrimage. When we return 21 days later, I’m sure I will be able to exclaim, “This has been the best pilgrimage ever!”

SANY2683
2013 Pilgrimage
DSC01263
2014 Pilgrimage
DSC06065
2015 Pilgrimage

 

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog!

We are “Roamin’ Catholics”. God’s presence fills the earth in the many holy sites of veneration. We are pilgrims on a journey.

This blog chronicles our pilgrimages both in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond.

As we visit the shrines of God’s presence, come and roam with us!