Holy Land Pilgrimage

Jesus, the Good Tour Guide

March 8, 2018

I have a lot of respect for tour guides these days. These courageous people have a monumental task every day: a guide must bring a large group of categorically ignorant people who they have never met around a place that is very foreign, filled with vendors, crowds, and shiny things to see without losing anyone. In addition to providing time to see things, bathroom stops, and food, they have to communicate essential information about this particular place to this hungry, hot, and impatient group. I have a lot of respect for guides.

After several weeks of riding on buses and visiting sites, I have met many guides and experienced the way they do their jobs, and an unexpected fruit of these weeks of pilgrimage is that I have become a sort of expert on guides. I compare guides to each other, I admit it. They are all extremely knowledgeable, but the way guides communicate varies greatly. Some I understand well and they understand my questions. For others, I do not see the significance of what they think is important. They are all personable, but the level of connection is unpredictable. I like some more than others. Some of them get on my nerves a little after a long day. Some feel like family.

Not long ago, near the end of a day, our guide was saying some final things about our location and I was tired. I was hoping he would finish soon, and my mind was on dinner. He finally did finish and we all got on the bus. As we were making our way through traffic, I realized that guides are a lot like shepherds. More than that, guides are like pastors. Their job is very much like the task of a priest pastoring a parish.

Suddenly I felt remorse for my lack of attention. In the future as a priest, there will be times when I speak too long and people start thinking about dinner. As I experienced, sometimes little things make it difficult to see the importance what someone is telling you, even a message as eternally significant as the Gospel. My experience with tour guides has made me more aware of many things to take into as a guide of God’s people. Speak shorter. Be patient with the bored. Watch out for people wandering away. Take care of those who need the bathroom. And always, always see that they have good food to eat.


By Rob Mulderink (Diocese of Grand Rapids, MI)

Photos by Declan McNicholas (Diocese of Gary) and Peter Pedrasa (Diocese of Tucson)

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