Vanessa Denha-Garmo asked a very good question at the end of her interview of Father Steve Matejas and me on Catholic Connection last week: How should people prepare for going on the Catholic Martyrs of England Pilgrimage? Here are some hints:
1) All travel involves planning and preparation. When my husband's career provided him with many opportunities to travel and I could go with him, I would plan and prepare my own itinerary for our destination. I would usually research three or four categories of things to see and visit: churches, bookstores, and colleges or universities, plus the usual monuments or museums as applicable. At first, back in the twentieth century, that often involved buying guidebooks or writing to tourism offices for brochures. Now, of course, the internet provides those resources. Corporate Travel Services, Father Steve, and I have taken care of some that planning--CTS books the flights, makes the hotel reservations, arranges the tours; Father and I have given our input to the itinerary.
Pilgrims might want to do their own planning about what they want to do in the evenings when the tour events are over--what sights to see or other places to visit; where to eat in York or London when dinner is not part of the schedule, for example. And there is a half-day in London "on your own" before we conclude the pilgrimage with a visit to St. Etheldreda's for Mass and the Tyburn Convent for a visit to the Martyrs' Shrine and Relics.
2) Pilgrimage travel involves not only practical but spiritual preparation. The Canterbury pilgrims, pictured above, went on pilgrimage for a spiritual purpose: expiation of sin; as penance after confession; for healing; for some other special intention. Pilgrims to England in September this year might prepare a special intention on the tour. The overall intentions of the pilgrimage, as Father Steve and I articulated them, are for us all to increase our devotion to these English martyrs and to meditate on their sacrifices for Jesus and His Church--considering the implications and impact on each of us today. Before a pilgrimage, we should go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, and pray, pray, pray for the grace to complete the tour with devotion, compassion for each other, and for the success of all the travel arrangements, connections, and reservations.
3) A participant on a tour like this might indeed benefit from some supplemental reading and viewing. A copy of my book, Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, is part of the package from Corporate Travel Services. Father Steve mentioned two other good books to read: Edmund Campion by Evelyn Waugh and The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest by Father John Gerard, SJ. I'd also recommend Saint Robert Southwell and Henry Garnet: A Study in Friendship by Philip Caraman, SJ and Into the Lion's Den: The Jesuit Mission in Elizabethan England and Wales, 1580-1603 by Robert E. Scully, SJ, published by The Institute of Jesuit Sources (St. Louis, Missouri), c. 2011. They could read about St. Thomas More in various biographies, including this one I reviewed last year. With some reservations about Robert Bolt's view of conscience, they could watch A Man for All Seasons, or watch some of the Mary's Dowry productions on the Catholic Martyrs of the English Reformation. They could watch Playing Elizabeth's Tune for some musical background on the era and the conflicts caused by the State imposition of religious orthodoxy. There are more reading ideas for the Stuart era and even more for Blessed John Henry Newman (Oxford) and St. Thomas a Becket (Canterbury), but the works listed above are more accessible.