When you and your family go on summer vacation, it always makes sense to pack the essentials: clothing, itinerary, passport, camera and so forth.
Why, then, do so many vacationers forget to pack their spirituality?
A welcome break from work and the regular routine of daily life shouldn’t include a break from your faith. After all, wherever you go, you’re still Catholic, and while you and yours needn’t partake in Liturgy of the Eucharist every day while in Bora-Bora, it’s always a good idea to enjoy your time off with, at the very least, a spiritual mindset. Here are a few simple ways to ensure that your renewal experience will be a religious one as well:
- Begin the trip with a family prayer for safety and end it with one of gratitude.
- Leave the whodunit paperback at home and bring along a Catholic book or two.
- In lieu of reading, take along a few Catholic CDs or MP3 files. Check out Lighthouse Catholic Media (lighthousecatholicmedia.org).
- Stick with your regular prayer routine, or at least take a few minutes each day to do so.
- If you have a spiritual mentor, stay in touch via email or Skype.
- Talk to friends and family about how they take their spirituality with them on vacation.
If you want to up the ante and really emphasize your spiritual life while you’re away, consider a pilgrimage. While on a pilgrimage, you and your family are not just traveling to a destination; you’re traveling to be closer to God. One of the best ways to do just that is to visit a popular pilgrimage site: St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, in Vatican City, for example. If you prefer a lesser-known – and surely less crowded – site, consider a place such as Ziteil, Switzerland, at 8,000 feet reputedly the highest holy site in Europe.
While vacations are all about the destination, pilgrimages focus more on the journey itself, the meaning of the holy site and, most importantly, the spiritual commitment throughout the journey. Focused preparation is essential. Rather than writing Facebook posts or Tweeting about your upcoming trip, consider spending time praying and meditating in the days leading up to your journey. Or read spiritual works with the friends and family members who will travel with you.
“Before a pilgrimage, a novena of prayers is a great way to start your travels,” says Ron Adcock, owner of Travel of Orange. “For instance, if you are visiting Lourdes, you could do a novena to Mother Mary for your spiritual journey and to receive additional graces.”
If you have the opportunity to embark on a pilgrimage with a leader in your Catholic community, sign up at once.
“We are preparing for a pilgrimage at this time with Bishop Vann,” Adcock says. “We hope to have information out soon on this spiritual journey. Pilgrimages are more common with priests from individual parishes, since the bishops in each diocese are so incredibly busy.”
A growing number of parishioners are focusing on Catholic Social Teaching as a way to add spirituality to their vacations. Companies such as DiscoverCorps provide travelers with opportunities to experience life in communities around the world while helping to improve those they visit. Many of these companies offer family-oriented trips to such places as Costa Rica, the Peruvian Andes and the Himalayas. You’d be hard pressed to find a better way to honor the dignity of your fellow human and help the poor and vulnerable than by volunteering during a trip, either around the world or around the corner.
On that note, consider going on a volunteer “staycation” (a vacation at home). Viewing life from a new perspective without leaving home comes with a cautionary note, say the folks at Extreme Staycation: “Be warned: Volunteering alters your vacationing outlook.” Volunteer staycations save families thousands of dollars, and the resulting spiritual assets can be priceless.
If you opt for a staycation, remember that the Diocese of Orange has two sites of Holy Doors – Holy Family Cathedral, in Orange, and Mission Basilica, in San Juan Capistrano – as well as three pilgrimage sites: Our Lady of Guadalupe, in La Habra; St. Joseph, in Santa Ana; and Christ Cathedral, in Garden Grove.
Or maybe a little R&R at sea is just what the doctor ordered. If you and your family are planning an ocean cruise, you’ll be surprised at the number of companies that offer cruises for those in the Catholic community. They include a priest or other clergy on board who provides daily Mass and Rosary services, and all furnish travelers with the opportunity to meet like-minded people. Catholic cruises go everywhere from the Caribbean to Alaska, and some Holy Land tours can be bundled with cruising.
“This is a great way to enjoy a vacation and unite with our other Catholic brothers and sisters,” Adcock says. “It is an amazing thing to experience Mass on board a ship. They often have engaging speakers and music, too.”
Adcock recommends a helpful resource for leaving home: “The free Laudate [smartphone] app has everything a Catholic traveler would need: daily readings, prayers, Rosary and much more.”
It can help you and yours keep a spiritual mindset, traveling or otherwise, 365 days a year.