September 8-17, 2020
Holy Land Retreat with Alice Camille
Enjoy eight days of serenity and reflection in the land where our faith became flesh and moved among us.
We'll visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and many other biblical places associated with the stories of our faith. Each day we'll have the opportunity for Mass at a holy site with our pilgrimage chaplain, Fr. Paul Boudreau. Evening discussions on what we saw that day and will see the next deepen the experience. This tour is intended for those who want to take their faith in their hands sacramentally and appreciate more fully the meaning of the Incarnation.
As of April, we’re still hoping and planning on taking our pilgrim retreat this September. Please read the Pilgrim Letters below for reflections on pilgrimage and updates on the status of our retreat as the present international situation evolves.
Dear Friends and Hopeful Fellow Pilgrims to the Holy Land,
We wanted to reach out at this time to you who have registered to accompany us to the Holy Land in September. Some of you are parishioners or friends of Father Paul. Some know me from retreats or things I’ve written or even, in one case, from Covenant House community days together! However you found this pilgrimage group, we’re delighted you’ll be joining us. Now more than ever, it helps to have something to look forward to and dream about.
So let me say first the thing you may be wondering about. In light of the pandemic we’re all living through right now, Fr. Paul and I fully expect our pilgrimage is still a go for this fall, September 8-17. We hope and pray that the measures we’re all taking to keep each other safe will be successful. By the time of our pilgrimage, travel should be possible, and “close community” will mean physical proximity once more.
We’re working closely with Canterbury Pilgrimages to ensure that your safety is the number one concern. Should the need to make any changes arise we will notify you directly. If you have questions at any time, you can call Canterbury Pilgrimages at 800-653-0017. Or you can write Fr. Paul and me at my contact page. After we receive your email, we’ll send you regular updates.
Pilgrimages create special kinds of families. I’m still in touch with people I came to know on previous Holy Land trips. It’s like Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which you may have read back in school. (For non-readers, there’s Pier Passolini’s 1972 movie by that name—if you don’t mind foreign films.) The Tales tells the story of a wife, a knight, a friar, a businessman—thirty characters in all, traveling to a shrine in Canterbury. These aren’t people you expect to find in one place, from all walks of life. They share their stories, bond, drive each other crazy. You know: create family!
What we learn in pilgrimage is how to be church; how, in fact, we ARE church. To me right now, in this era of necessary distancing, the idea of rubbing elbows and ideas with my neighbors sounds truly lovely. To be the Body of Christ with our bodies in tow again, to celebrate daily Mass together the whole time we’re abroad, to journey together. It’s a dream we can hold in our hearts, as we continue this rare spiritual journey of unexpected separation this Lent.
If you’re not the Chaucer type, never fear! Consider contemplating more user-friendly pilgrimage stories like Martin Sheen’s The Way; The Trip to Bountiful; or the mystically uplifting Monsieur Ibrahim starring Omar Sharif. Even The Wizard of Oz and The Blues Brothers (“We’re on a mission from God!”) count as classic stories of spiritual travel that have become, for many of us, peculiarly sacred.
Enough for now! We’ll write again every few weeks. And you’re in our prayers until we see you all, face to face.
Peace, hope, trust,
Alice and Fr. Paul
Dear Friends and Hopeful Pilgrims,
It’s Holy Week, when we all mystically journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and to the cross. Gospel events seem more real right now: The scattering of disciples. The few hidden away in an upper room. Danger in the streets.
It’s hard right now to imagine the liberty to travel in a time of stay-at-home orders. Hard to dream of joining a band of pilgrims when physical distance is a mandate. If visiting the Holy Land is part of your bucket list goals, well, perhaps that idea has taken on more urgency than usual. A familiar Jewish toast is: “Next year, in Jerusalem!” You and I are still hoping it might be: “This year, in Jerusalem!”
If it’s safe to go this September—as reckoned by the CDC and powers capable of reckoning these things—Fr. Paul and I will be happy to lead our rejoicing crowd to Jerusalem. If, however, it’s necessary for our common welfare to postpone and reschedule, we hope you’ll be able to make whatever accommodations are necessary. Trust me when I say I wouldn’t consider risking your lives or mine on a dicey proposal. We’ll do this confidently, or not this year.
When you think about it, ancient pilgrimage began as a bucket-list decision: to reach the holy city of Jerusalem before death. The journey was never easy, and always full of peril. Along with weeks or months of weariness, hunger, physical exertion, and financial hardship, the open road also contained the possibility of bandits and harsh weather, as well as outbreaks of local wars or sickness along the way. These were all good reasons not to take this journey alone. It was never certain, on the pilgrim trail, when you would arrive or indeed if you would live to complete the journey.
Holding the intention to complete the journey, however, was deemed enough to gain the indulgences of pilgrimage. If you turned your face toward Jerusalem and set your heart on reaching the holy city, the goal of pilgrimage was, in a sense, already achieved. You might listen to my favorite pilgrimage song by Rory Cooney, “Jerusalem, My Destiny,” to get the idea:
We in the 21st century normally find our way of pilgrimage remarkably uncomplicated. We travel by plane, with hotels, meals, and guides prearranged by touring agencies. For many, it’s as much a vacation as it is a spiritual quest. The risks of modern pilgrimage range from less-than-four-star accommodations to a personal dislike of the local cuisine. Some pilgrims complain of “ABC Syndrome” on the fourth or fifth day: having to visit “Another Bloody Church.” At worst, today’s pilgrims risk a case of absent-minded dehydration from failing to drink enough of the plentifully supplied water.
Our pilgrimage this year is different. As we turn toward Jerusalem, we don’t honestly know our destiny. Like pilgrims of old, we travel into a future of real uncertainty. No travel agency can predict what the next weeks or months will bring. We hope to say: “This year in Jerusalem!” That’s in God’s hands.
So let’s pray for each other, as we set our faces toward Jerusalem. None of us are immune to the times in which we’re living. Let’s pray for health, courage, and the strong bonds of the mystical Body of Christ to hold us together in safety.
Peace, hope, trust,
Alice and Fr. Paul
Dear Friends and Hopeful Fellow Pilgrims,
I wish I had more information for you about our scheduled Holy Land Pilgrimage this September. But as with everything else these days, we’ve got a lot more questions than answers about what September will look like here and around the world. Rather than speculate about the fall, I’d like to mention an opportunity to share some virtual time together this month.
As you can imagine, Catholic retreat centers have been as hard hit by this pandemic as the rest of the economy. These islands of refreshment and spiritual growth are seeking ways to renew the church especially at a time when gathering as church is highly problematic. Like other retreat leaders, I viewed my scheduled events this year as quite dubious since March.
But recently, two retreat centers I work with have proposed to do virtual retreats with the now-ubiquitous ZOOM discussion options. So I’ve put together a five-part retreat entitled "Stories That Could Be True"—prerecorded and enhanced with Fr. Paul’s amazing visuals, as any of you who’ve attended our previous retreats can attest. It’s about poets and lepers and mystics and other "essential workers" in the story of faith. It’s about you and me, about health and anxiety and unwelcome surprises. It’s about poet William Stafford and mystic Thomas Merton and my mother and your family. It’s about rediscovering how stories and this time of enforced solitude come together to teach us something about what it means to be more deeply human.
While I admit to feeling less optimistic about travel in 2020, I’m committed to being patient and allowing the organizers at Canterbury to work with federal guidelines as they emerge and see what may be possible and when. I do hope at least to reschedule at some future time when smarter people than I am figure out how to make a pilgrimage work again.
Meantime, Vallombrosa Center will be hosting me as "guest homilist" on their website Tuesday, May 12th. It’s a 15-minute spot that tells more about the upcoming retreat. Oh, and speaking of 15 minutes, don’t miss the 15 Minutes With Fr. Paul video series.
Peace, healing, and hope, friends,
Alice and Fr. Paul
For more information on this event, please visit https://canterburypilgrimages.org/product/alice-camille/.