The Franciscan Friars have been organising pilgrimages designed specifically for young adults since 2019. In fact, Friar John Paul Tan led a group of young adults, aged 18 to 35 years, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land last December.
An objective of these pilgrimages is to help young adults make sense of what they have learned and heard – in their catechism classes and during the pilgrimage – and lead them to an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
As Yossi, our archaeologist tour guide in the Holy Land, is fond of saying, the distance between the human mind and the heart is about a foot but it can be the longest journey. By that he means that the historical, religious and cultural significance of the places we visit could remain at the head level without reaching the heart to make a difference at the faith level.
One of the places on the pilgrimage is the Benedictine Monastery of St Mary and the Church of the Resurrection which was built by the Crusaders. Located in the Arab village of Abu Gosh, this church commemorates the event in Luke 24:13-35 when Jesus appeared to two disciples on their way to Emmaus. They had become disillusioned after the crucifixion of Jesus.
Jesus taught the disciples as they walked, about Moses and the prophets and about himself being the fulfilment of the scriptures. But it was not until the “breaking of bread” that the disciples encountered Jesus in person and recognised him. “Were not our hearts burning …,” they said. It was the moment when the mind met the heart!
“During the pilgrimages, our pilgrims are invited to make their own Emmaus journey; to allow the knowledge that they have gained to move their hearts,” said Friar John Paul Tan.
“Our young pilgrims have their lives ahead of them. Many obstacles and hurdles, disappointments and disillusions will block the journey from the head to the heart. It is our hope that these pilgrimages will give young adults the impetus to discover Jesus more in the scriptures, and reignite their faith in the person of Jesus who continues to be present at the Breaking of the Word and at the Breaking of Bread.”