All posts tagged: pilgrimage

Sailing the Unknown Ocean: Vocation and Pilgrimage in Moana

This past week saw the DVD release of the latest addition to the canon of Disney animated films: Moana. Not since The Lion King has a Disney film presented such rich thematic content: Moana is a beautiful depiction of the link between the discovery of one’s vocational identity and the pilgrimage that results from that discovery. Its imagery and language contain deep scriptural resonances that make it arguably the most theological Disney film to date. From the opening moments of the film, the audience is invited to “put out into deep water,” if you will, as the narrator begins the story not with the traditional phrase “Once upon a time,” but with the words “In the beginning.” What unfolds is a creation narrative of sorts: the world is at harmony and all is well until the demigod Maui steals the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti, which holds within it the power to create. As a result, darkness enters the cosmos, gradually spreading a deadly blight throughout the lands and seas. Those with even …

Mary wrapped in blue mantle and red cloak from Malta. Holding Jesus, her child.

Pilgrimage and the Urgent Question of Faith

“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8). We were asked this question twice—once when the Gospel was proclaimed in Latin and once again when it was translated into English. The strange urgency of the question didn’t strike us the first time because the words were foreign, but the second time they were spoken in our native tongue even though we were in a foreign land. The setting was ornate and the occasion was peculiar: we were 19 Americans gathered at the 9:15am Mass in St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, the capital of the tiny rock country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea known as Malta. We were not tourists but pilgrims and to hear this question on the first morning of our pilgrimage was quite an odd thing. No one would leave for a pilgrimage unless he already assumed there was faith to find “out there”, a faith that he hoped would grow in him. And yet from the lips of Jesus comes the question as …

Pilgrimage and Catechesis: Creating Space for Christ

Amid the honey-colored stone houses on a narrow street in the Mediterranean island of Malta, one building reveals a hidden gem.  At the back of the Dar il-Hanin Samaritan Conference Centre, the large reflection garden invites awe. Crisp, bright, and peaceful, the garden starkly contrasts its bustling, rocky surroundings. It contains prayer mazes, private reflection booths, and a fountain symbolizing Baptism that points to the architectural “cross” of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. I had the privilege of walking through this garden last week, as one of 19 pilgrims to Malta, at the invitation of the Society of Christian Doctrine (SDC). Walking slowly through this physical space, I could not help but be drawn from the ordinary rush of life – into a stillness, a deeper contemplation. The task of Catechesis is to create such spaces: space for prayer, space to encounter the person of Jesus Christ, space to linger with the Word of God. Pope St. John Paul II wrote that “the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but …

The buildings of Malta at sunset

By Sea and By Air: The Journey of the Gospel

Traveling by sea as a prisoner en route to his martyrdom in Rome, St. Paul was brought to the rocky shores of a small Mediterranean island with the debris of the shipwrecked vessel that hurled him with his captors and fellow prisoners into uncertain squalls. One thousand, nine hundred, and fifty six (or so) years later, I hope to descend on the island much more softly alongside 18 other pilgrims from Notre Dame, hopefully with all luggage in tow and in tact. Then as now, the unpredictable sway of the Gospel draws wayfarers towards a small and seemingly obscure destination: Malta. The pilgrimage that we make to Malta today with the support of Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry, Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and the McGrath Institute for Church Life is undertaken for two complementary reasons. First, Malta is a land that boasts of a rich Catholic culture—preserved, at least for a time, from the same pervasive secularizing currents with which much of the rest of Europe has moved. It is a land dotted with sites …

The Way of the Pilgrim

When I teach Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in my literature survey course each semester, I need to take a certain extra amount of time to explain to my students just what these characters are doing by going on a pilgrimage: it is not something that younger people are often familiar with or find attractive, and yet I think that for Christians the idea of living the pilgrim life can be a very rich way of looking at the way we move through our days. In medieval times people undertook religious pilgrimages for a reason, ordinarily supplication or thanksgiving, although some people went out of simple piety. Whatever the reason, people wanted to show God or one of the saints how serious they were about their prayer for this or that. Depending on whom they were praying to or honoring, the pilgrims would choose a particular shrine from among dozens of possible sites, from Santiago de Compostela to the shrine of St. Ursula in Cologne, or even the Holy Land. They would ordinarily travel on foot, without …