October 18-27, 2022
Holy Land Retreat with Alice Camille *NEW DATES* Now on pilgrimage October 18-27, 2022!
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 August 2021, our pilgrimage has once again been rescheduled due to pandemic travel restrictions abroad. See pilgrim letter #7 below for details. And please consider joining us in October 2022!
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
Dear Friends and Fellow Pilgrims,
FINALLY: the letter you have been waiting for. The one with all the answers to all the questions you’ve been asking.
We’ll start with the most important question first:
Q: Are we going to Israel on pilgrimage in September 2020?
A: No, we are not. It’s simply not feasible in the reality we live in globally right now. It’s not safe, and it may not even be possible, to take such a trip this Fall.
Q: Are we going to postpone the pilgrimage to another time in the future?
A: Yes, we are. Our new dates, just confirmed today, are for OCTOBER 5-14, 2021.
Q: What happens to the deposit we’ve already paid for the trip?
A: You will receive a letter from Canterbury Pilgrimages very soon regarding the new dates. They will ask if you would like your deposit applied to the new pilgrimage. If you say yes, that’s all you need to do. My understanding is that the cost of the original trip will be respected—but we’ll all be reading the fine print on that. I like to see things in writing.
Q: What if I can’t make the new dates or for any other reason decide to cancel?
A: Your deposit will be returned, less $200 administrative fees. That may sound like a steep amount for fees, but the truth is, Canterbury already put down money in good faith with various hotels, bus companies, etc. to reserve our spots. So that’s where the money goes that will be withheld from your deposit should you need to cancel.
Q: I have a friend who never signed up but would like to come.
A: The reality is some people will be obliged to cancel as a result of the change of dates. We understand that. But the bus wasn’t full before the pandemic, and even if we double the number of pilgrims, the bus still wouldn’t be half full. So go ahead and invite your friend.
The bottom line is, we can all breathe now. Take it easy. Reclaim your September. Let’s work on healing the planet and its citizens. Then we’ll have something really joyful to bring to the Holy Land in our hearts.
Fr. Paul Boudreau
P.S. Those of you who can’t take the heat: October is a cooler month than September in desert lands. This could be a plus for all of us.
Dear Friends and Hopeful Pilgrims,
May Advent Peace find you this season!
It’s been a full five months since our last note to you. At that time, we received word from Canterbury Tours that our pilgrimage would be postponed from September 2020 to October 2021. That was disappointing, necessary, and non-negotiable, considering the state of the world in the grip of pandemic.
This December day, the news seems more hopeful than it’s been all year. Vaccines are on the foreseeable horizon. Medical workers and other essential workers will be receiving their doses as early as this month. The rest of us might hope to be in line for the vaccine by the Spring. Even if two doses are required, we might all expect to be vaccinated well in advance of October 2021. We share this hope with the waiting world. Advent is the season when we might allow our hopes to lift us higher.
For now, Advent takes us naturally to thoughts of Bethlehem, meaning "house of bread," where barley grain once ensured the livelihoods of its inhabitants. It’s in Bethlehem that a destitute outsider named Ruth once gleaned some free grain in the fields of a generous man, Boaz. Later they married, and as a result Ruth would become the great-grandmother of King David, born of Jesse in humble Bethlehem. This would also make Ruth the many-times-great-grandmother of Jesus, whose parents traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill the demands of the census.
Bethlehem is a "little town," as the song goes. Yet it’s the locus of many dreams and hopes, the humble holy site from which hope springs eternal. No Holy Land pilgrimage is complete without a visit to the Grotto of the Nativity, historically considered the place of Jesus’ birth. We’ll also visit the nearby Milk Grotto, legendary for assisting women in doubtful or difficult pregnancies give birth. We won’t leave Bethlehem without seeing the shrine at Shepherd’s Field, where shepherds watched by night and received a visitation of angels.
Then we’ll head out farther to see the birthplace of John the Baptist and the site of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth. All of these are some of the most wonderful moments of a pilgrimage, and they will come near the end of our journey. Here’s a lovely YouTube rendition of "Gabriel’s Message," one of our favorite Christmas carols to inspire your imagination this season, as we "wait in joyful hope" for a new year of grace to arrive:
Happy Advent Season and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones,
Alice and Fr. Paul
Dear Friends and Hopeful Pilgrims,
It's Holy Week again! It feels like we've already traveled a long way together. Like all pilgrims, we walk by faith and not by sight. We don't know the road ahead and we can only take the step ahead of us as we move forward into the future.
However, let us betray to you that right now we're feeling cautiously optimistic about our proposed dates to travel to the Holy Land this October 2021. There are some things we should all be doing to be prepared if that is to be a reality. First, please get your vaccines! Father Paul had his two Pfizer doses in February and March. Alice had the single-dose J & J in March. Wherever you are, please make sure you get some version of the vaccine and that you take good care of the card that certifies you've been vaccinated. It's fairly certain we'll have to present these for any travel in the foreseeable future.
Now's a good time also to review your passport to be sure it's up to date and hasn't expired since you last used it. It should be valid through the end of 2021 to be on the safe side.
There's no telling at this time what protocols may be in place this fall in airports and on airlines. We'll keep you updated on this as the date for departure get closer, but for now it looks like a good idea to invest in a few comfortable masks. Hand sanitizer is always a good idea for travelers. Right now we have eleven confirmed reservations and aim to get that up to twenty. That will still mean plenty of space on the bus to spread out and be safe and comfortable.
Peace and happy Holy Week,
Fr. Paul Boudreau
Dear Fellow Pilgrims,
Greetings and blessing from Alice Camille and Fr. Paul Boudreau, your Holy Land Pilgrimage hosts. We just received word from Canterbury Pilgrimages that our October 5-14, 2021, pilgrimage to the Holy Land has once again been postponed: to next year, October 18 - 27, 2022. Autumn is best so we can enjoy the fine weather. The reasons for the postponement are:
- Israel still has a number of COVID restrictions in place that may impact the quality of our travel.
- The small group size: so many pilgrims dropped out because of the pandemic and the first postponement that we have just twelve left—down from the twenty we started with.
- There have been quite a few cancellations from other upcoming Holy Land Pilgrimage groups due to the latest requirements (vaccinations, multiple covid tests, required insurance, forms to be filled out and signed, etc.) that we may have a few more cancelling, making our group even smaller.
This is very frustrating for all of us, especially since we’ve already been postponed once. But we really want this pilgrimage to be a wonderful experience and the chances are better if we wait till next year and a time when there will be fewer restrictions.
As with the last postponement, the terms and conditions remain the same. Everyone’s reservations will be transferred to the new dates unless you tell Canterbury Pilgrimages otherwise. If you decide to cancel, all payments made toward the price of the tour will be refunded, minus the $200 processing fee as per the registration agreement.
The cost of the pilgrimage in 2022 will remain the same, barring some very dramatic inflation of travel costs, which is not anticipated and which did not happen during the past postponement.
We're sure you have additional questions. Please feel free to respond to this email any way you wish. We'll pass on your concerns to our friends at Canterbury Pilgrimages.
Our hope is that the pandemic will subside in time, allowing us to have a free and easy pilgrimage to the Holy Land. God bless you all, truly, for your patience and prayers.
Best regards and blessings,
Fr. Paul Boudreau
For more information on this event, please visit https://canterburypilgrimages.com/current-pilgrimages/alice-camille/.