Fr. Clemens Gutberlet, LC, recently cycled from Rome to Lourdes with a group, as both a spiritual pilgrimage and fundraiser.
Fr. Clemens works in the office of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in the Vatican and is the general procurator of the Legion (liaison between the Legion and the Vatican). He is also an avid cyclist. On July 22–29 he and a small group of other cyclists traveled almost 1,000 miles (1,600 km) by bicycle, from St. Peter’s Square to the Grotto in Lourdes.
He spoke with us after the trip.
Fr. Clemens, can you please tell us how this bicycle pilgrimage came about?
Fr. Clemens: Well, it came about because one of my friends, Giuseppe Fatato, who was a professional cyclist, mentioned that he had a debt with Our Lady of Lourdes because he was cured in an unusual way. So, he promised to do Rome to Lourdes on a bike to thank Mary for the grace of being cured in a special way.
The other reason was that the Athenaeum, Regina Apostolorum, was celebrating its 25th anniversary. We spoke about that, and they thought it would be a nice way, during this Jubilee, to do a little fundraising by going from Rome to Lourdes on a bicycle. So, those are the two reasons why we did this.
Third, I just like cycling.
How many days were you on the road, and what was the ride like?
We planned it for eight days to do over 1,550 km. First, we divided it into 8 equal parts, but they became a little different, as we had to find accommodation. The first day ended up being 230 km and the second day was only 180 km. In the end, it was 1,600 km.
Did you have a spiritual experience while cycling? What was on your mind? Actually, before starting, I invited anyone I talked to about the pilgrimage to give me intentions. So, I really had a long list of prayer intentions in my bag, in my mind, and in my heart. The spiritual journey was praying for these and also offering up the difficulties – both organizational and physical, such as tiredness – for these intentions. I felt relieved when I arrived in Lourdes and I could just leave all these prayer intentions at the foot of Our Lady in the grotto.
Who else went with you besides Giuseppe Fatato?
The whole thing is also about formation. Cycling and formation don’t necessarily seem so related. We went as a group of eight cyclists: six were young men between 15 and 18 years old. They are semi-professional cyclists who used it as a training ride. I noticed that it is so important for them to get not only training, but also formation: human and spiritual formation.
For next year, I’m planning to do something similar but with the explicit goal of offering integral formation to a group like this during the week. It shouldn’t just be a cycling tour but also integral formation to them.
How much did you raise and what is the money going towards?
Well, the money is for scholarships for the students in our Athenaeum, Regina Apostolorum. I’m not sure of the final amount that came in: we proposed €30,000 as a goal but I don’t think we got there – I think we reached about €10,000. People can continue to support this on CrowdRise or on the Athenaeum’s website [Note: CrowdRise allows US and Canadian Dollars but the Athenaeum’s site only takes Euros.]
If you want more, you can see a complete photo gallery on Facebook (the same page also has a few videos) and donate money to sponsor Fr. Clemens.