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Mike Aquilina hits the road, on a pilgrimage—with you?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | May 02, 2024

About 75% of the time right now, you’ll see an image of Mike Aquilina in the right sidebar of our website, announcing a pilgrimage he is leading to Rome and Assisi later this year, from October 10th through October 20th. CatholicCulture podcast listeners know Mike as the host of Way of the Fathers, which he started on October 18, 2019 and continued for four years, through November 8, 2023, when he passed the baton to our current host, Dr. James Papandrea.

Mike’s pilgrimage is being offered by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology through the services of the experienced Catholic pilgrimage company 206 Tours. I emphasize that CatholicCulture is advertising it free of charge because we recognize its immense value. While Mike, who is the executive vice-president of the St. Paul Center, will serve as Group Leader, the Spiritual Director for the tour will be Fr. Jihoon Kim of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. An optional add-on package enables the pilgrims to visit Florence, Venice and Padua from October 20-24. You can get all the details and book the tour at Pilgrimage to Italy: In the Footsteps of the Church Fathers. Right now, a $300 discount is being offered.

It would be hard to imagine a more engaging and knowledgeable Catholic tour director than Mike, or one who is more attuned to what it means for a Catholic to make a pilgrimage. In fact, the episode of Way of the Fathers that Mike recorded for CatholicCulture before leading his tour last year can be played directly on the new pilgrimage page (or here on Patristic Pilgrims’ Progress). In this episode of the popular series, Mike explains why Catholics have made pilgrimages, without being required to do so, from the very beginning of Christian history.

Touring with Mike Aquilina, you will experience the spiritual significance of the churches and other sacred sites you visit, while also visiting some of the more famous secular sites like the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum (hallowed by Christian martyrs), and the Roman Forum. You’ll have a chance to see the Vatican museums and receive a blessing from Pope Francis. And in Assisi, which is a far smaller town, you will be able (as the promotional material promises) to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis himself, not to mention those of his spiritual daughter, St. Clare.

In Rome, of course, you will visit sites that were sacred to Christians as early as the first century, when Peter and Paul were in Rome, and both were martyred by the Emperor Nero, who had set fire to Rome but blamed it on the Christians. The origin of the fire is not absolutely certain; but the false blame is. The famous novel Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (or the film by the same name) will offer additional insight into the Rome of that period. But it is spiritually enriching to walk and pray there in memory of the early martyrs, along with so many other events of Catholic significance down through history.

As for Assisi, the direct significance for Francis and Clare stems from the dawn of the thirteenth-century. Chesterton wrote a fine biography, St. Francis of Assisi (available in many forms, but free through Project Gutenberg), which captures the essential spirit of these two. And if their lives seem to be in the distant past, it may be helpful to remember that the two saints were already separated farther in time from Peter and Paul than we are from Francis and Clare—yet they managed to do great things in Christ.

In the end, of course, that is the purpose of a pilgrimage—to honor God in the places which His action has made spiritually great, and so to pray that we might participate in that action by becoming spiritually small. The sheer length and breadth of the world and its history help us to realize how little we really are, and how much greater—yes, even greater than all history—is the power of our Father’s love.

Pilgrimage details

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: tmschroeder2790 - May. 04, 2024 9:18 PM ET USA

    Thank you for this lovely description of this pilgrimage and for the invitation to join it. I am not likely to be able to make the trip this year. But I am definitely encouraged by the words written here, to make a pilgrimage in the future. And my favorite part was this,"The sheer length and breadth of the world and its history helps us to realize how little we really are, and how much greater—yes, even greater than all history—is the power of our Father’s love." Amen!