Head of Religious Education
Religion and Travel
Being unable to travel internationally to Israel with my family last year, and with the European summer looming now in 2021, I have been reflecting on how fortunate I have been to see and travel the world in previous years. Looking at past photos has given me the opportunity to reminisce on my experiences, including the memories I shared seeing family for the first time in Italy, or learning about the atrocity of the Bosnian War when visiting the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial.
This time has also given me the chance to remember the religious travel I have undertaken. Religious travel can take on two forms – pilgrimage, meaning travel for religious or spiritual purpose, or visiting religious sites, which is known as sightseeing. One of my most significant memories of religious travel is that of visiting Vatican City. Alongside the thousands of people crammed together side by side waiting to catch a glimpse of the Pope, the spiritual buzz I felt in the air around me was something that cannot be described in words. It was truly an ‘out of body’ experience to know that I was in the presence of the person who represents a direct line back to Jesus. Walking only steps away to the Sistine Chapel and seeing the famous Michelangelo’s ceiling also allowed me to completely take in the experience of the spiritual. I was left in awe to see a painting that was completed over 500 years ago, took four years to create and depicts many stories from the Bible, including the story of the creation of the first human. This painting embraced me and made me feel submerged within.
With the government ruling out international travel until at least 2022, it is hard to think about what travel may look like in the coming years. Maybe it is time to look in our own backyards and visit some Australian sacred sites that represent more than 60,000 years of history.
The most famous sacred site in Australia would have to be the Aboriginal sacred sites of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This area is considered a living cultural landscape, where earth and memories exist as one. It is important to know that although the rock formations hold so much spiritual significance, the rock art around Uluru also contains a history of cultural knowledge and Tjukurpa (pronounced ‘chook-orr-pa,’ meaning the Dreaming to Anangu People) stories that have been used in Anangu education. This rock art has been compared to a classroom blackboard, where a teacher illustrates a lesson to those willing to learn. If Alice Springs seems too far, or the fear of state border closures has you thinking twice, don’t hesitate to explore NSW, home to Australia’s largest Aboriginal population. In many NSW national parks, you’ll discover Aboriginal places of significance which range from small ceremonial sites to towering mountains. Garigal National Park is the closest, being only a thirty minute drive from Loreto Normanhurst. This sacred site has an extensive history of thousands of years, including more than a hundred Aboriginal sites, including cave art, rock engravings, shelters, middens, grinding grooves and plants and animals of cultural value.
What are your plans for this weekend? Maybe you should take a religious travel experience.
Mr Jason Currao
Head of Religious Education and Aboriginal Studies