Pilgrimage is a sacred experience that is found in all religions and cultures. It is journeying along the path of faith with the objective of seeking the divine and enhancing the gift of faith. Just as pilgrims journey in the direction of an unseen sanctuary, we Redemptorists pursued to the various locations of our Congregation that we did not have the opportunity to visit in the past.
A small and enthused group of 23 Redemptorists, from the various worldwide Redemptorist units of Nigeria, Bangalore, Liguori, Baltimore, South Africa, West Africa, Indonesia, Majella, Asia/Oceania and Kenya under the mentorship of Rev. Fr. Piotr and Rev. Fr. George, came together with the special mission of covering a few Redemptorists destinations for study and reflection on its spirituality. The belief that “Spirituality is something that would unite the entire Congregation together” was of particular significance to the mission. Accordingly, Morning prayers and Eucharistic celebration at the start of every day gave to each of us the solidarity we needed and formed our daily routine irrespective of the place we were stationed.
On the morning of June 26, 2017, our General Rev. Fr. Michael Brehl, along with his consultors, inaugurated the Spirituality course at the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help with a meaningful Eucharist celebration. It is at this very place that the original Icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help is venerated by the faithful. To begin our course at this shrine was thus very special and brought us immense joy. We were in Rome for three days at the end of which a long cherished dream of a Vatican Audience became a reality. It was sheer delight to see our Pope Francis at such close proximity. The sight of the number of people who thronged to have an audience with him was an awe inspiring experience.
On June 29, 2017, we left for Scifeli which was and continues to be a village, where the Redemptorists established a foundation in 1773. Interestingly it was the place where the first General Chapter after the Schism 1785 was held. We then proceeded to Monte Cassino where a mystifying experience awaited us as we spent an entire evening at the burial place of St. Benedict observing the monks praying and chanting the Psalms.
Our journey continued to Saint Agatha where St. Alphonsus was a Bishop during the period 1762-1775. Even as Bishop he chose a small room to live in and embraced a simple lifestyle. The modest room was witness to his simplicity and encouraged us to imitate our founder. We also visited the OSsR community. We were touched by the simple, yet the joyful life of the sisters there.
Our next destination was Materdomini, a place which was loved much by our very own St. Gerard. This small village houses a Hotel owned by the Redemptorists and managed by the lay people of the village. The hospitality of the hotel staff was noteworthy and the presence of a Redemptorist Community there is of significance. A large number of Catholics from across the world with belief in the miraculous powers of St. Gerard, the Patron Saint of mothers, sick children and families throng the place seeking his intercession. Materdomini is now a large shrine and devotion to St. Gerard is extremely popular in S. Italy. We as a group felt fortunate to be there for four days and to witness the devotion of the people. We also felt blessed to spend some time in prayer at this shrine.
Coming to Scala, it is close to each Redemptorist as the beginnings of our congregation took place here on the 9th of November, 1732. In the Hospice beside the Cathedral of Scala St. Alphonsus and his first companions committed themselves to the salvation of the most abandoned. Monsignor Falcoia presided at the celebration amidst Alphonsus de Liguori, Vincenzo Mannarino, Giovanni Battista De Donato, Pietro Romano and Silvester Tosquez. It was here that St. Alphonsus was moved with compassion like our Lord as described in Matthew’s Gospel 9:36 – “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” This challenges each one of us to identify ourselves with the poor. In order to carry out the mission of our community, we want to return to the living font of the Alphonsian spirit, and to the intention that inspired St. Alphonsus to choose the poor of Scala.
We then proceeded to Ciorani where we spent almost ten days of our course. We were guests of the community in an area reserved for groups and retreatants. It is a small village surrounded by the mountains. Here, Blessed Sarneli’s mortal remains have been venerated in the Redemptorist Church of the Most Holy Trinity, the mother house of the Redemptorists built on the Sarnelli family estate. From this place, we visited Muro Lucano, a little town where St. Gerard was born and then Deliceto where he spent most of his life.
July 12, 2017, we continued our visit to Marianella, the birthplace of St. Alphonsus. From there we proceeded to the city of Naples where our founder practised as a lawyer. It was here in this court after losing a case that he surrendered himself at the feet of Our Lady of Ransom. The course was concluded at Pagani where St. Alphonsus spent his last days and was buried. We were able to spend the entire day in prayer and reflection.
Finally, we returned to our last destination, Rome, the sweet home to the Catholic Church. Completing the Spirituality course or pilgrimage tour of our Congregation one can say in the words of St. John, “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched.” (1 Jn 1:1).We became aware of the need to return to the fundamentals of our Spiritual life. We need people willing to commit their lives unconditionally to the cause of the poor and the abandoned, people like Alphonsus, Clement, John Neumann, and many others. We are indeed in need saints!
We join together as a community in congratulating Fr. Piotr and Fr. George for all the effort that has gone into the making of this course. We also thank all the others behind the scene for their contribution in making this spiritual journey a memorable one for all of us. May God bless each one of them and may our Mother of Perpetual Help intercede for each of us always!
Fr. Siluvai Muthu, C.Ss.R