Today, my boyfriend leaves for Israel. I’ll admit to being a little envious. He sent me his flight schedule, and just seeing “arrival in Tel Aviv” brought back the most obscure of memories: Waiting for our group at a coffee shop in Ben Gurion airport; finding a single shekel on the carpet and laughing that it was my only local currency. That single shekel is still in my wallet.
I was reminiscing about my own travels to Israel, which I’d always said was “three years ago or something.” I joked of our poorly-planned (or best) schedule, in which we departed for Israel right after casting our presidential ballots on Election Day. Then I realized: This was in 2016. Only two years ago. It seems impossible not only that my own pilgrimage was so recent, but all that’s happened in that time. The questioning, the searching, and ultimately finding Home.
But my envy is misplaced. I would certainly revisit Israel, but now is his time to connect with God in His very own promised land. Besides, I’ll be on my own pilgrimage during this time—tomorrow, I leave for Rome. We didn’t coordinate our trips at the same time (we didn’t even know each other yet when they were arranged), but God has a funny sense of humor sometimes.
Not only that, but I depart on November 8: two years, to the day, since I departed for Israel myself.
Many people have seen my conversion as a rejection of my roots. That I’m somehow abandoning my faith, or God himself, by being part of organized religion. But Catholicism does not take the place of spirituality. Exploring Vatican City will not replace my time in Jerusalem. It’s a completion. It’s a culmination of all I’ve searched for. It’s my own personal evangelization, taking a journey from Israel to Rome like the first disciples did.
I recognize my boyfriend’s journey for what it is, not because he’s told me, but because I’ve done it myself a mere two years ago: A desire to grow closer to God, and to learn first-hand his Truth. Sometimes I’m more excited for his trip than my own, but then I remember what my pilgrimage symbolizes. It’s a physical manifestation of my faith journey. It’s furthering the adventure that began in the Holy Land. It’s building a home upon the foundation, linking together the history and the present. Those early disciples hailed from Israel, but they didn’t remain there. They went forth. So shall I.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” —Acts 1:8