A few weeks ago, we returned from an amazing pilgrimage to Europe. It will take us a long time to unpack all of the insights and graces we received through the experience. We spent time in Portugal, France, and Italy, but most of our time was spent in Spain. We stayed just outside of Madrid near to the village of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, and we made day trips to Avila, Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Toledo, Segovia, Loyola, and Javier (the latter two locales of course being the birthplaces of the notable Jesuits Ignatius and Francis Xavier, respectively). I very much enjoyed Toledo, particularly its massive cathedral, and I would love to return to Salamanca in order to explore its historic university.
Throughout our journey, we stayed in hospederias run by convents and monasteries, and we were very well taken care of with lots of good food, drink, and company. We were also very fortunate to have been traveling with a good priest who graced us with daily mass in every location, from deep within the papal tombs of St. Peter's in Rome to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, from places both lofty and large to simple and understated. It's also amazing where you can spontaneously find opportunities to spend time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. There are churches in even the darkest alleys of Toledo that have the Blessed Sacrament exposed. How awesome is that! We also were able to pray with our beloved Holy Father in Rome both at the Sunday Angelus as well as at the papal audience and listen to him preach.
On the whole, we learned a great deal and developed an even greater appreciation for the local culture as well as the complex history of Christianity in Europe. But more than that, as a pilgrimage, it was a profound spiritual experience. I will try to unpack that a little bit more on the blog in the coming weeks.