Travelling and experiencing some of the most treasured shrines on pilgrimage is now popular and affordable. Hundreds of organisations from schools, prayer groups, retirement homes, churches, through to Diocesan organisations arrange group pilgrimages every year and some travel several times between spring and autumn.
Pilgrimages are not only for prayer and worship, although this is often the underlying drive, but also for friendship, companionship and the opportunity of sharing and caring for others who are in need of support be it physical or emotional. There can be a wonderful sense of giving derived from helping others and seeing the enjoyment and pleasure brought to those less fortunate. The opportunity to travel, see different places and experience some of our holy shrines is something special and being part of a group on a ‘pilgrimage holiday’ is a wonderful way to give.
Not all destinations are exclusively for sombre reconciliation and quiet reflection. Certainly all provide the opportunity for sincerity but there is far more on offer. When travelling abroad the opportunity to experience different cultures, food and traditions is all part of the package. Destinations such as Lourdes, Rome and Poland offer pilgrims a ‘holiday’ of restaurants, shops, entertainment and plenty of tourist attractions as well as worship and prayer. Others like Fatima, Lisieux and Knock are a little more focused but exceptional in their own way.
Organising a pilgrimage for a group, particularly if some travellers have a physical restriction or infirmity, must seem daunting and there are only a few operators geared up to make such a project quite manageable. It is worth mentioning that specialist ‘pilgrimage’ operators offer experience and knowledge when it comes to understanding and anticipating the needs of travellers requiring assistance at all levels. Local knowledge of your chosen destination as well as facilities provided by hotels is vital and an experienced tour operator is essential to ensure a trouble free pilgrimage. Some can even offer an accompanied spiritual director for your tour and it is wise to use a company with bi-lingual and local staff resident at your destination.
FATIMA On the 13th May 1917 Our Lady appeared to three little shepherds at a place called Cova da Iria in the rocky unproductive area of central Portugal now known the world over as ‘Fatima’. The Lady from heaven asked the children to return six times at the same hour on the 13th of every month and subsequently made known that she wanted a chapel built in her honour.
Today many pilgrims, sometimes up to a million at a time, many on foot, make the pilgrimage to Fatima to pray to Our Lady. Fatima is a small village with few hotels and little in the way of tourist attractions, however, the chapel, church and concourse is a wonder to behold. The best times to visit are between May and October to include the 13th of the month when special services are held.
THE HOLY LAND The Holy Land is one of the most renowned and religiously important regions of the world. A visit here can provide a vivid image of the historical setting into which Jesus was born. Pilgrims may walk in His footsteps and visit places associated with His Ministry and the Holy family. It is an opportunity for pilgrims to reflect on his Ministry and the lands in which it took place.
Whilst in the region try to include visits to famous places such as the Jordan Valley, the Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem, the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Mount Zion.
This type of tour only takes pilgrims to places considered as ‘safe’. One would normally travel by fully air conditioned luxury coach and accompanied by an experienced tour guide. This type of pilgrimage is not suited to pilgrims with severe disabilities as there is quite a bit of walking involved. Check with your operator for details on the itinerary.
LISIEUX Situated in Normandy, northern France, Lisieux is the home of St. Therese of the little flower. Visits to this shrine are generally made by coach and accommodation can be arranged at the Convent l’Ermitage giving a special feel to what Lisieux is all about. There are plenty of hotels and worthwhile tourist attractions nearby should you choose a less spiritual pilgrimage.
COACH TOURS TO LOURDES One of the best ways to visit a number of shrines in France is to participate in a ‘Coach Tour’. These can either be customised to your requirements or smaller groups may participate in a pre-set tour. Pre-set tours often operate in conjunction with various ‘Feasts’ such as ‘The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes’ (February), ‘Easter’ (March), ‘The Feast of the Assumption’ (August) and finally ‘The Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December). Tangney Tours offer various coach tours which include visits to holy shrines in Paris, Rocamadour and Nevers.
Tangney Tours offer group leaders a personal and friendly travel service to many holy shrines in western Europe and beyond. Experienced and respected throughout the industry they are able to offer a second to none group travel experience and level of service group organisers and leaders would find hard to beat. Further, if you have a destination you would like to visit as a group, Tangney Tours would be happy to prepare an itinerary and costings customised to your particular requirements.
You can call Tangney Tours on 01732 886666 or visit their website at