By: Fr. Nicholas A. Marziani, Jr., D.Min.
Going on pilgrimage has an honored history in many cultures and religions of the world. Sometimes you just gotta get out of Dodge, not just for a “vacation” – a very worthy exercise, to be sure – but also to meaningfully engage the wider world and discover something about it, and oneself, that elevates one’s soul beyond the mundane.
I had such an opportunity back in mid-July when I joined a small, but very feisty and accomplished, group of pilgrims to the very edge of Europe, with “near” Siberia in sight up in the Urals, and then back west again to Moscow, and finally on to the “Eternal City”, Rome itself. The Urbi et Orbi Foundation of Front Royal, VA has been sponsoring annual “invitation only” pilgrimages to important sites of Christian interest for many years now. But not just “sites” as in “sights” to gawk at, but places where real people of different religious traditions live and work – and die. Death was a particular feature of the first leg of our trip insofar as we were in the Russian city of Yaekaterinburg on the 100th anniversary in that locale of the murders of Tsar Nicholas Romanov II, his wife and five children, along with a retinue of others. I leave it to you, dear reader, to do your own research on this subject, but would refer you to the July 16, 2018 edition of the journal, American Affairs, and its article entitled, “Nicholas II: A Tsar’s Life for the People?” Meaty reading, to be sure. While we eventually moved on from this city of a million souls along the tracks of the Trans-Siberian Railroad to an amazing time in Moscow and Rome, it was Yaekaterinburg that most captivated many of us. The aforementioned foundation exists to facilitate relationships between folk of various backgrounds, and I can tell you that a relative handful of American Christians marching in the middle of a Russian “White Night” from the place of execution of the royal family to their “disposal” site (burial would be incorrect!), along with nearly 100,000 Russian people, representing our love and respect for them and their history, made its own impact, not just on our hosts, but on ourselves. You’re just not quite the same after an experience such as would be ours, a mid-summer’s holy expedition.
Space and time do not permit me to develop this thought, but I wanted here to simply cite one pilgrim’s experience, and commend a similar one to anyone here in northeast Florida.God bless and love you all, Fr. Nick.