The clock and the daily rush. We live in a fast-paced world, and at the end of every school year, I find that we all need a break that aligns with what Pope Benedict XVI once described as the ideal vacation: “a time to relax the body and strengthen the spirit.” So, I set out to find an activity that would allow me to combine some physical exercise with spiritual retreat. My work during the year is predominantly sedentary, focused on teaching. I needed a breath of fresh air.
For this reason, I embarked on a twenty-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, walking from Acre to Jerusalem. I carried only my backpack, a sleeping bag, a mat, and a tablet with good meditation books recommended by my spiritual director. The goal was to spend entire mornings in silence while walking and whole afternoons in retreat when I reached the holy sites. Along the way, I shared reflections on my YouTube channel and connected with many others who were interested in my experience.
It’s difficult to evaluate the quality of this time of solitude and prayer, but I believe there are some very clear objective observations: every evening, I was able to pray in the holy places for at least two hours in front of the Eucharist. Additionally, I filled several pages in my spiritual diary with texts about what God was revealing to me. These entries have become a spiritual treasure that I revisit time and again. I had the opportunity to meet wonderful people on my journey: priests from local Christian communities, Franciscans and religious who safeguard the holy places, members of Jewish communities, as well as lay people and families. A few examples stand out: I remember a delightful dinner with a Mexican family living in Nazareth, where they shared how they experience their faith. I recall spending a whole day with a parish priest from a small Arab Christian community: we talked, ate, and prayed together. On another occasion, I stayed in the home of charming Arab Christians who made me feel like one of the family. I also had late afternoon walks in conversation with a Franciscan while watching the sunset at each of the holy sites. An initiative called “The Way to Jerusalem,” accompanied by Yael and Golán, added the finishing touch to this rosary of experiences.
Undoubtedly, it has been a highly recommendable experience. Traversing the Holy Land on foot gives your pilgrimage a very different flavor. As we mentioned at the beginning: good for the body and therapeutic for the spirit.
Valentín Aparicio Lara
Vice-Rector of the Major Seminary of Toledo, Spain
Social Media: @curadetoledo