Leap of faith, passport required

January 11, 2014 | Italy Pilgrimage 2014

My most recent Life Lines column, running in the current issue of Catholic New York, will give you a glimpse into the surprising way my food-faith pilgrimage to Italy came to be and how you can get on board: 

One day a few months back, I opened my email inbox to find a message from a travel agent asking if I’d be “willing” to lead a food and faith pilgrimage through Italy in October 2014. After staring at the email open-mouthed for what must have been a good five minutes, I turned the laptop to Dennis and said, “Do you think this is for real?” I couldn’t imagine that my dream of going back to Italy— not just to Rome this time but for a cross-country trek—might be on the verge of coming true.

So I called Melani from Travel Overtures, who had read my book “Cravings” and thought it might be a good starting point for a trip combining food and faith. What better place to do that than Italy? She told me to design the trip of my dreams city by city and she would take it from there, and, boy, did she ever. What Melani has come up with truly is the trip of a lifetime, one that will take me— and whoever else decides to join me— from Florence and Siena to Assisi and Rome to Naples, Salerno, Sorrento and the Isle of Capri, with wine tastings, an olive oil tasting, a cooking class, and a boat ride to the famed Blue Grotto woven into the spiritual mix of churches and shrines, museums and Masses. It promises to be a true feast for the senses.

I’ll even get the chance to speak on topics near and dear to my rome forumheart in various Italian cities: spiritual friendship while in Assisi, where Francis and Clare—spiritual friends extraordinaire—set out to change the Church and our world; food and its connection to faith while in Rome, where a fabulous meal is always right around the corner; discovering the divine in everyday life while we traverse the Amalfi Coast and soak in the grandeur of God’s glorious creation.

But this trip is also a leap of faith because saying “yes” to the adventure means trusting a plan I didn’t set in motion and relying on lots of other people to make it happen and on God’s grace to see me through. I remain totally open to whatever God has in store because, as I learned when I clicked on that email six months ago, you just never know what God has up his sleeve.

That seems to be the case with so much of life, whether we are flying off to a foreign country or dealing with things around our own kitchen table. It’s all an adventure, and we can either choose to embrace whatever happens next or live in fear of all the what-ifs.

I can look at this trip and wonder how it will all come together, how my husband and kids will fare with me out of the country for 13 days, how my other work will get done while I’m gone. Or I can look at this trip and wonder just how blue the Blue Grotto will be, how it will feel to stand in a hermitage where St. Francis of Assisi once prayed, how I will contain my joy when I finally get to the town where my grandfather was born, Massa Lubrense, just outside of Sorrento. I think the latter approach sounds much more fun.

No matter where you travel this year, or whether you travel at all, remember to embrace the possibilities and trust that God has a plan just waiting in your spiritual inbox somewhere. Don’t be afraid to open it.

“Italy: A Feast for Body and Soul” will be held Oct. 7-19, 2014, departing from JFK-New York. Cost of $4,999 includes round-trip airfare, 4-star+ accommodations, 24 meals, two wine tastings, olive oil tasting, cooking class, entrance fees to museums and other attractions, English-speaking tour guide and more. For more information, click the Italy 2014 tab above, or visit the Italy: A Feast for Body and Soul Facebook page and click “like” to get regular updates. Or email me privately.

Photos by Mary DeTurris Poust. No reprints without permission.


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