Faith on the Move: Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith

Today, we debut a brand new feature at — “Faith on the Move”. We’ll spotlight a new sojourner each week, sharing their tips, memories, and spiritual insights. I had an incredibly difficult time naming this feature, so I called in my fellow journeyers at Facebook for a naming contest. 40+ suggestions later, I was even more confused! So I’m going for now with one of the most simple, Faith on the Move. I hope to share in this space the stories of many different types of travelers, including “staycationers” and armchair travelers. Some of our interviews will feature business travelers, some will feature campers, some will even spotlight married couples and families.

Today, we share a conversation with Thomas Smith, an amazing author, speaker and evangelist, who spends much of his life on the road sharing the good news of the Gospel. I know you’ll enjoy hearing Thomas’ insights on travel, faith, and turning any journey into a pilgrimage.


Thomas Smith


Catholic evangelist, retreat director, parish mission leader, conference speaker, author


Southeastern Idaho


Social Media Links:

Twitter – @Gen215

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I was born a 6th generation Mormon, and later was a Protestant minister who was received into the Catholic Church in 1996. I’m a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a parish mission and conference speaker. I co-authored “Revelation: The Kingdom Yet to Come” with Jeff Cavins, and I’m an international presenter for the Great Adventure Bible Timeline. Currently, I am writing and will be filming a new ten-part series on the Prophets. I was an adjunct professor at the St. Francis School of Theology in Denver, and is the former Director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School and the Denver Catechetical School. I now live on a 500-acre family ranch in southeastern Idaho, it’s my personal retreat, and base of operations for my apostolate.

How often do you travel?

I’m on the road between 160-180 days a year.

Is the majority of your travel for business, pleasure, spiritual enrichment, or “all of the above”?

Most of my travel is ministry related, but I build in two “vacations” a year, typically lead one pilgrimage a year, and love to camp locally in Idaho/Wyoming/Montana with my family.


Where are some of your favorite destinations?

I have favorites based on some different factors.  I love Singapore b/c it is so compact (one of the world’s last remaining city-states), modern and multi-cultural and has a very vibrant Catholic parish there that I’ve had the joy of working with for the last 3-4 years.  In terms of natural beauty, Catholic culture, and people I am in love with the Philippines (I would love to retire there).  It is stunningly beautiful, especially Mindanao, home to some wonderful and exotic fruits we never see in the states, and the people are wonderful.  I have a foundation that provides bible study materials to needy parishes and groups in the Philippines, so I’ve created some lasting friendships there.  I will be heading back there in February 2014 to train seminarians. catechists and laity on the Word of God.

As far as pilgrimages go, my heart is in the Holy Land.  I’ve lead seven pilgrimages there, and spent some time studying in Israel.  It changes the way you hear the Gospels, and feeds your imagination with wonderful images for reflection and prayer. Finally, I’m an Idaho boy at heart, and my state is one of the most beautiful for raw natural beauty.  The Sawtooth Mountains and Redfish Lake are some of my favorite camping spots here, and I’m only a few hours from Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole, both places I never tire of visiting.

How is travel a spiritual experience for you? How do you turn any travel opportunity into a pilgrimage?

Blessed John Paul II said that each one of us is a “homo viator”, a human being on a journey.  That journey is both external and interior.  I have a simple travel prayer that I pray not only daily on pilgrimages but in my apostolate work as well, “Lord, help me to see Jesus and to be Jesus.”  In some ways, that is the essence of the journey for me. When I can do each of those (even marginally well), a simple trip to the local bank can also feed my interior journey to Christ, if I keep him in my vision, words and deeds wherever I am.

Have you ever had a “travel nightmare”? How did your faith help you through the experience?

I have had my share.  Luckily no real nightmarish scenarios.  I’ve been stuck in airports for 7-8 hours, lost luggage, etc. I have accepted those as just parts of the long journey of life. There’s no use getting upset, anxious or angry over these little inconveniences, because those emotions can ruin a journey and they don’t ever solve the problem at hand.  Another little prayer that is helpful for me is, “Lord, help me to find a lesson in this.”


What advice would you give to a fellow Catholic tourist?

Firstly, the attitude we carry with us on the journey is one of the most important factors. I tell my pilgrims, when they are packing for a pilgrimage, to not forget St. Paul’s great advice for dressing in layers, “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12-13).  Secondly, pack lightly, it’s a great life principle.  I had a dying woman tell me once, “Thomas, learn to hold loosely all that is not eternal.  There aren’t many things that are forever: God, his Word, his love and his people. Everything else is passing away.”  I’ve carried her advice with me for the last twenty years. Travel teaches me what is essential and what isn’t, what has its grip on me (carrying 4-5 electronic devices), and what I can do without.  It helps me travel loosely and lightly through the world, and if embraced can help me spiritually detach from the things that have a hold on my heart and are keeping me from fully trusting Jesus in the journey.

What destination is on your “must see” list for the future?

I’ve had a bucket list dream to trace out the steps of Sts. Francis and Clare in the Rieti Valley especially. That is coming true this year.  I will be joining a 25-day study/prayer pilgrimage with three fantastic Franciscan scholars/guides this fall.  It is especially exciting, given our new holy Father Pope Francis will be in Assisi when we are on the Feast of St. Francis.  I’ve always wanted to visit the British Isles (my ethnic heritage) and hope to do that with my brother who has traced some of our genealogy back to the 1500s.

What are some of your favorite tourism related websites, apps, books and tips?

One of the keys for me that can reduce a lot of stress and weariness of travel is to reduce the variables.  I stick to one airline (90% of the time) and one hotel chain (85% of the time).  For me, this helps immensely, because I know generally what to expect.  I use one suitcase for all my trips (whether its two days or twelve).  It is a miracle bag called the Zuca Flyer (  It is super light, super functional, you can sit on it when you are waiting in a line, and it fits into overhead compartments (regional jets excepted).  You fill it with color coded stackable cubes. I keep a set of travel gear (charging dongles, etc) and toiletries in it all the time, and simply remove the clothing cubes to refresh for the next trip. No more lost luggage, and the packable cube means everything stays organized when I arrive at a hotel or rectory.

Travel has changed dramatically for me in the last 5 years because of devices like the iPhone.  My boarding pass is now on my phone, the TripIt app organizes all my travel details and puts it at my fingertips (and even alerts me before the airlines about delays in my flights)  I carry a sturdy folder called Read/Review with me all of the time.  It contains the latest issues of The Week magazine (my go-to news summary magazine, its great), a print copy of my itinerary (courtesy of TripIt), and a hard copy of my presentations. On takeoff and landing (when you can’t use electronics), it’s my go-to folder, instead of paging through SkyMall magazine.  The Kindle app means I don’t have to lug around heavy books anymore, and the Feedly app gathers all my favorite Catholic news and bloggers in one easy interface.  Check with your airline about signing up for something called TSA pre-check, it’s a special line at most major U.S. airports now that pre-screens you as a non-threat to airline safety.  I now can get through airport security in less than 60 seconds, and don’t have to remove shoes, liquids, laptops from my bags.  What these all have in common is they simplify the experience of travel for me and minimize the impact of the unexpected.

Visit Thomas Smith at

Copyright 2013 Lisa M. Hendey

About Lisa M. Hendey

As a Catholic who loves her faith and a frequent adventurer who’s always up for a new journey, Lisa is a wife and mom, a writer, a speaker and an impassioned traveler. Visit her at to keep up with her comings and goings.