27 March 2020

Pilgrimage in a time of Pestilence

Presenting a chapter from my new book about pilgrimage – HOLY RAMBLINGS: Travelogues, Commentaries, and Meditations on Pilgrimages Far and Near. Available in ebook and print formats: www.holyramblings.com
Well, a week or so ago, just when this period of enforced solitude was beginning, I was talking with the office manager of my parish, the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Natchitoches, Louisiana, and I asked her, “Does my timing suck, or what?” After months of work, much longer than I anticipated when I started this project back in the summer, I finally had received a box full of paperbacks, was ready to seek permission from the rector of the basilica to place a few in the gift shop, and announce their availability there as well as from the online merchants that can be accessed through the link above. Then this happened, the new world of social distancing went into effect, public Masses were suspended indefinitely in the Diocese of Alexandria, and the gift shop closed. I ultimately decided on the smaller-scale online roll-out that I started Wednesday evening via Facebook, of which this is a continuation – with a bonus.
Besides meditation on what exactly pilgrimage is and why it seems to be an almost exclusively Catholic thing among modern Christians, followed by detailed day-by-day narratives of my three “big” pilgrimages over the past few years – to Rome and Italy, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and to the Holy Land – I also spend a couple of chapters surveying the wider world of pilgrimage, discussing the most popular destinations around the world as well as these United States. With the world currently on shutdown, however, the pilgrimage industry as well as basically any other nonessential travel at virtually any level has screeched to a halt. Quarantine, “stay-at-home,” call it what you will, suddenly we are all largely confined to our abodes with a great deal of time on our hands even if we are part of this grand new experiment in work-from-home, “telecommuting,” again call it what you will. What better way to spend some of that time than going on a pilgrimage?
After those surveys of “pilgrimages far” (around the world) and “near” (around the United States), I tackle the subject of “pilgrimages here,” at home – literally – by various means including the new possibilities afforded by modern technology. Here follows that chapter, with commentary after….