Pilgrimage to Russia: Intermezzo

Brethren and Sistren, I haven’t forgotten about my pilgrimage updates, to which I’ll return early this week. In the meantime, I’d like to post recollections from our tour leader, Fr Ilya Gotlinski. (Fr Ilya is planning a tour to Georgia this Fall for those interested. If I hadn’t used all my vacation time I’d certainly want to go!)

The photo is of our group while on the island of Valaam. See if you can spot Your’s Truly.

Next: Part III: Sergei Posad, Radonezh, Butovo

Our pilgrimage to St. Nicholas Skete, Valaam

Our pilgrimage to St. Nicholas Skete, Valaam

My dear friends, greetings to you on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God! May God through her intersession give to all of you and all your loved ones good health, much happiness and peace of soul and body.
This short message is to stay in touch with you and to let you know that you are appreciated and loved. I certainly always keep in my prayers all of my fellow pilgrims who have become as if a part of my extended family.

Those of you who have not traveled with me before are also on my mind. I truly hope that you will join our pilgrim community soon!

This summer for us was busy with various activities. We had several wonderful pilgrimages. One pilgrimage lead by our dear co-worker and friend Ivan Krucican covered many wonderful religious and cultural sites in Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Even as most of the sites visited are not of great fame they are truly something of significant interest and our travelers enjoyed themselves very much.I personally lead two pilgrimages to Russia, both on the same itinerary, in as much as interest in for the Holy Sites of the country seem to be unwaveringly high. We spent several days in Moscow, and then followed deeper into the heartland of Russia to visit “St. Seraphim of Sarov” and to venerate his relics in Diveevo. At present, the convent in Diveevo is the largest in Russia, and perhaps in all of the Orthodox world. Some five hundred nuns keep ceaseless prayer for the World, and take care of the thousands (quite literally) of pilgrims that come to that holy place not only from all over Russia, but from all over the World. It was very moving to witness genuine piety and devotion of the people who come from afar to worship at such a special place.

Visit to Valaam is a regular feature of our tours to Russia. Still, the beauty and the spirit of the place are difficult to describe. It is clearly one of those places that make a long lasting impact on everyone — a place that one should experience through all of the senses. Despite a tragic accident last Pascha that lead to a significant fire that destroyed one of the Monastery’ hotels, the enthusiasm of the inhabitants of the monastery is unwavering and they are as active as ever despite the setback. Our second group was fortunate enough to see the preparation for a singing festival that has become a regular event of the religious life of the Archipelago.

Our group members created a special event page on Facebook where they share their stories and pictures of their travels through Russia. You are most welcome to visit, comment and join that little community. Regardless of the fact that you were not members of that particular group, many of you followed flowed the same or nearly the same route. And your reflection is certainly of interest and value to me, and I believe to many others from among our pilgrims.

There are some other news as well.

As you may have noticed, we completely overhauled our website (excellent work by Fr. John Peck of LOGOS web services). Despite its new and attractive look, we believe that the website should be expanded further. And you certainly could help. Our page will be much more than just a billboard with the announcements of our future trips. We want it to be representative of who we are and what our activities are all about. Such an undertaking is impossible without your participation. Articles, photos, movie clips, anything that you think could benefit other travelers, help them to learn, to grow and to experience things, is certainly most welcome. Please feel most welcome to forward to me your information, so I could review it and add to (dare I say? “our”) page.

On the final note of this message we would like to draw your attention to the final trip of this year, and also the latest addition to our collection: Pilgrimage and cultural tour of Georgia, October 16-29, 2016.

Our original plans were somewhat different, however, due to world events, we needed to alter our original plans. I hope that for some of you this invitation will be of interest. Please join us and share our travel invitation with your friends.

Early next month I’ll be back with an update of our pilgrim schedule for 2017. As always, there will be many interesting pilgrimages and cultural trips that we would like to/plan to offer: Russia, the Holy Land, Romania and Greece are just a few trips that we are finishing our preparations for; and hopefully be able to offer for your enjoyment before too long.

Thank you very much for your support and God bless you all.


Fr. Ilya Gotlinsky