Journeying toward Easter in countries far from home


By Sam Aitchison
The Church is Alive!


Six weeks. Forty days. 960 hours. 56,700 minutes. A time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. An opportunity to prepare to be spiritually resurrected on Easter Sunday. A chance to unite our hearts, minds and entire being more closely to Christ. To me, this feels like a big task to work towards!

I had goals and aspirations of how Lent would help me grow spiritually. My expectations of how this would occur were different from what has transpired. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Morocco for a weekend trip (I’m studying abroad this semester in Madrid, Spain). A part of my trip included a hike to the top of a small town in Morocco that had a beautiful sunset view and a mosque built on the hillside.

Followers of Islam pray five times a day and I had the opportunity to see a group of Muslims pray as I watched the sunset over the city. During this moment, my eyes were opened and my horizons broadened. I felt a sense of unity and connectedness amidst the vast differences in cultural and religious customs. Perhaps the values and orientations of our separate religions are closer than I thought.


This moment of spiritual formation brought me closer to Christ. I had not anticipated an experience like this one to be an influential part of my Lenten journey thus far. God worked in a different way than I expected. Now and through the Easter season I am going to try to keep my heart and mind open to where God is calling me and how I can experience him in ways I didn’t expect.

With Easter Sunday only 10 days away, I will have the opportunity to experience this Resurrection Sunday as a pilgrim in the town of Assisi, Italy, the birthplace of St. Francis. My typical experience of Easter has been with family in Iowa, but this year is different. Part of me feels a bit lonely knowing that I will be apart from family, friends and my home parish. I thought of what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew — “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Matthew 8:20).

I feel thankful that although I am a pilgrim this Easter, I do not have to worry about safety and security, having a meal to eat or affording a place to rest my head like so many of our brothers and sisters across the world. Think of the people in Haiti, Gaza, Ukraine, Central America, South America and troubled spots in Africa.

In our own country, we know that in our midst are people who are homeless or outcast, people who are undocumented, people who lack safety, security and the basic necessities of life. Jesus in the Gospels reaches out to the stranger, the sinner and the outcast, showering them with his love and mercy.

During my pilgrimage to Assisi, I pray to mold my heart closer to Christ so that moving forward I recognize the dignity of every person, strive to uplift the lowly, welcome the stranger and offer support as needed. This is my prayer for our world as well as myself. I wonder what amazing things could happen if each of us, one moment, situation and day at a time, fully committed ourselves to becoming more like Christ — to better love him and our brothers and sisters on this earth. Perhaps this Easter could be the start!

(Sam Aitchison is a sophomore at Saint Louis University. He can be reached via email at

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