Many people may not fully understand the deeply personal and religious nature that is the act of pilgrimage. Taking a trip to Rome, Lourdes, or Medjugorje with your spouse, spiritual director, or parish may sound to some like an excuse to take a few days off from work to experience a new culture and try new foods. However, a pilgrimage is not
is defined as, “a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity; usually used for rest, recreation or travel”.
On vacations, we relax, detach from our daily stressors, and treat ourselves to great foods, luxury, and fun activities.
on the other hand has a much different meaning. A Pilgrimage is defined as, “a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion; as to pay homage.” A Pilgrimage is not a time for detachment, rest, or pampering, but rather a time of deep reflection, modesty, and prayer.
In 2016, during the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis delivered a speech containing his thoughts on the act of Pilgrimage to a sea of thousands of pilgrims making their own pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Square. He said:
“A Pilgrimage is not the same as a Vacation… Making a Pilgrimage to shrines is one of the most eloquent expressions of the faith of God’s people… It would be a mistake to think that those who go on a pilgrimage live a spirituality that is not personal but rather of the masses. The reality is that the pilgrim carries within him his own history and faith and the lights and shadows of his own life. Each person carries within his or her heart a special wish and a particular prayer. Those who enter the shrine immediately feel they are at home, welcomed, understood, and supported.”
Clearly a Pilgrimage is not a “break” from responsibilities like a vacation is – rather it is a calling.
It reminds us of our responsibility to our faith as disciples of Jesus. On a Pilgrimage, we encounter God in the very places where He has revealed himself. It can be a challenge – it can take us out of our comfort zone and incorporate tedious travel or navigating difficult terrain.
It is a transformational experience that changes lives, and brings us closer to our faith in ways we could never imagine through sincere and concentrated prayer.
To share your own experience of how Pilgrimage has changed your life, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org