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What is a Pilgrimage?


Sometimes we take few steps to the left, sometimes a few steps to the right, other times we take a few steps back, but when we go on a pilgrimage we are walking toward God. We go to God, not perfect, but as we are, with all of our doubts, crisis, sickness, curiosity, adventure, faith, and thanksgiving to ask for favors and to offer ourselves completely.

Our pilgrimages are escorted by a Catholic priest, but all are welcome.

If you want perfection then our pilgrimages are probably not for you. Misconnections, delays, faces we meet, wrong turnings can happen and can lead to unexpected views, and all will be well if we remember where the route will lead us. The route is towards God. Whether or not you choose to make the physical journey, you in some ways are already making it as you are reading this. You and I are on the pilgrimage and have been since the day we were born and we will remain on this journey until we die. Your future pilgrimages will be compound of the present and the past. As you head on your journey, the spiritual part is more important than the physical (hotels, walks, buses..). In many ways, I expect that the detachment of the physical comforts and joys will at times help your spiritual progress. That is if you let it.

It's in the opening of your eyes, heart, and the Word of God that you find your journey progresses.

Sometimes the steps are not easy, but each step counts. These will be the steps that lead you from the person you were to the person growing consciousness and deeper sensitivity to God's view point. There is a path in front of each one of us. Let us move forward with and towards Jesus.




History of a Pilgrimage


A
Pilgrimage differs from a tour in several important ways.  It is a personal invitation from God, comprised of His offer and dependent upon the pilgrim's acceptance.  God's call may vary but the purpose remains consistent:  It is an individual summons to know God more fully.  A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey to which the pilgrim joyfully responds "yes" to God's invitation.

Although in previous centuries many trials were intrinsic to a pilgrimage, the modern pilgrim has an abundance of affordable travel options, yet the purpose remains unchanged.  It is a journey to a holy, sacred place to usher the pilgrim into the presence of God.

The pilgrim must embark on this journey with joyful anticipation, willingness to temporarily separate him or herself from the world and to offer him or herself in humble service to one another.  A successful pilgrimage involves a commitment to leave behind one's problems and to focus instead on seeking to learn more about our heavenly Father.  Also, a pilgrimage involves making one's heart full of desire for special graces, praises, petitions, thanksgiving, returning home transformed, renewed and restored by the abundant blessings received.

A pilgrimage is a time of prayer and to witness the miraculous signposts God has left for our return to Him. Ask God to bless you with a heart that will be receptive to the treasure chest of graces He desires to shower upon your pilgrimage.  The success of your spiritual journey will depend upon your openness, faith, flexibility, and love.

Pilgrimages - journeys to sacred places  - are as old as civilization.  Since the earliest times, such journeys have been made as acts of devotion, penance, or thanksgiving or in search of blessings or miracles.  The concept crosses all ideological boundaries.  In the ancient Near East, a portion of the harvest was carried to shrines to be offered to the gods in gratitude and homage.  Muslim law prescribes a pilgrimage to Mecca, the birth place of Muhammad, for all who are able to undertake the journey.  For Hindus, a pilgrimage to Varansi (Banares), to bathe in the sacred waters of Ganges, is considered an obligation.

Christian pilgrims, from early in the second century, traveled great distances to venerate places in the Holy Land sanctified by the presence of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or the Apostles.  The number of pilgrimages increased greatly in the fourth century, after Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity and legalized the faith throughout the Roman Empire.  He and his mother, Helena, were themselves the most influential of pilgrims. The historian Eusebius of Caesarea attributed to Constantine the discovery of Christ’s tomb, the Holy Sepulcher; other accounts credit his mother with finding the True Cross.

Word of the discoveries spread, spurring the pilgrimage movement.  Although travel was always difficult and often perilous, by the end of the fourth century pilgrimages to the Holy Land were relatively common.

Rome, as it became the center of the Christian faith, became a frequent pilgrimage destination, as did Greece and Egypt, where the faithful could follow the footsteps of the Apostles.

By the Middle Ages, pilgrimages had become a significant part of Christian devotional life, whether they involved a journey between neighboring cities or across half the civilized world.  Churches and cathedrals throughout Europe holding relics of the Holy Family, the Apostles, and other early saints drew throngs of faithful, from common people and parish priests to emperors and popes.

The role of such relics - particularly those that were instruments of Christ’s Passion - is strong in pilgrimage, and many have survived to our time. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, for example, enshrines part of the Crown of Thorns, wood from the Cross, and a nail from the Crucifixion.  Kept  in individual reliquaries encased in a gilded ark, they are on view Only * during Lent.  The Sanctum Sanctorum Chapel in Rome has relics of the Cross, Christ's sandals, and a portrait of Christ “not painted by mortal hands”.  At Aachen, Germany, relics include the infant Jesus’ swaddling clothes and the Virgin’s veil. The Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be Christ’s burial cloth, is world famous despite continuing nit pickings about its origin.  Many highly respected scientists vouch for the Shroud.

Corporeal relics - the bodies of saints, or parts of them - have also formed the basis of many famous shrines.  Prominent among such places in Santiago de Compastela in northern Spain, revered since the early ninth century as the burial place of the remains of Saint James the Apostle, who was beheaded by King Herod in Judea in A.D. 44 and whose body was thrown to dogs.

The heads, hearts, and various limits other saints were sometimes removed - not by their enemies, but after death by their adherents - and enshrined separately.  In Paris, the heart of Saint Vincent de Paul is kept in a reliquary on the alter of his shrine in the mother house of the Sisters of Charity; his bones are incased in a wax figure in the chapel of the Vincentian Fathers.  In Goa, India millions were drawn a few years ago to a week-long exposition of one Saint Francis Xavier’s arms.  Counted among shrines marking the tombs of saints are those of Saint Martin in Tours, France (once most frequented shrine in Europe), and that of his mentor, Saint Hilary, in nearby Poiltiers, both dating from the fourth century.  There are scores of others, on every continent.

Holy objects other then relics have given rise to many other popular shrines.  At Czestochowa, Poland, the icon Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, is believed to possess miraculous powers and has been venerated since fourteenth century.  At the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, millions come to see the peasant’s cape on which the Blessed Virgin’s image miraculously appeared following an apparition in 1531.  In Brazil, an image of the Virgin was discovered on a rock by a small child and has led to wide cult following.  In Ancona, Italy, a weeping statue of the Virgin has drawn pilgrims since the early nineteenth century.

Numerous places have become the destinations of pilgrims because of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Framed among them are Lourdes and La Salette in France and Fatima in Portugal; at all three, the Virgin appeared to young children and urged mankind’s repentance and prayer.  Pilgrims now number in the millions, and devotion has resulted in numberless reported favors and cures.

Church authorities are cautious about giving credence to accounts of apparitions of Mary and approving of devotion at the places where they occur.  Since the early nineteenth century, about 200 reports of such apparitions have been investigated, and Only * about 1 in 40 has received canonical sanction.  In addition to Lourdes, La Salette, and Fatima, sanctioned apparitions since 1842 have occurred  at the church of Saint Andrea della Frate in Rome and at Illaca in Croatia, Philippsedorf in Germany, Pontmain in France, Knock in Ireland, and Beauraing and Banneux in Belgium.

No country in Europe is without its Christian shrines.  In England, a number of shrines that were widely known long before the Reformation of the early sixteenth century are the object of growing devotion today.  Cheif among them Waisingham, Glastonbury, and Canterbury (Chaucer’s pilgrims of The Canterbury Tales were on their way to the shrine there of the martyred Saint Thomas Becket).  Other shrines honor the founders of religious orders.  Three of these, are in Italy, are the shrines of Saint Benedict at Monte Cassino, Saint Dominic in Bologna, and Saint Francis at Assisi.

Why does someone decide to book a Pilgrimage?

There are many common reasons:  Increase of Faith, Practice Prayer, Practice Fasting, Learn to Let Go and how to give our problem to God, Pray for Healing, Hear what the Holy Spirit may say, In thankfulness, In Joy and Rejoicing, To Pray for others, To Visit Holy Places, Experience diverse cultures, To escort a family member or a loved one, to travel with their prayer group/church/youth group/leader, and/or for Unity so we can be with people like ourselves. Often we go on a pilgrimage when seeking change, and often, change takes place.  Pilgrimage means focusing on an intention, focusing on a desire, or focusing on resolution of a situation.


A Pilgrim Goes Because he hears "the calling" - They come back to give peace a chance, and not let the jerks of the world get the best of them.

He goes seeking to find peace with their loved one, or for peace in the world. Upon their return they discover, that  in order to find peace with another human, they must first find it with God and in their own heart!  

Unless we find peace in our heart, all the prayers, pilgrimage and travels will not help.  If we go around the corner, or to Paris, we bring our hearts with us.  Only * with peace in our heart will we ever see things with clarity.  The Japanese have a beautiful proverb "Stand further to see clearer".  Have you ever stepped into the distance and looked at the situation?  Separate yourself from every day surroundings and look at it again. 



Have you ever considered taking your whole  family on a Pilgrimage?


Have you been wondering what it would be like if your child would meet people in another country?  If he/she saw another culture? 

Our world today is growing and changing at a very fast rate.  Our kids do not remember what it was like to write a letter without an e-mail.  Some of our kids do not remember what it was like to not have a cell phone.  Our kids want things right now.  It's about instant gratification. These days kids play with games that offer instant moving images. No time to contemplate or wonder. No time to pray, dream, or imagine how it could be. What if our child sat by the window and watched the rain fall?  How about if we share our time and take a family trip?  How about to another country where they may hear another language and learn different customs? 

Most families spend more money on toys then they do on family trips. Taking them on a pilgrimage would allow them to absorb more in a week in a new country than they would get in a lifetime full of toys. So why not venture to another country?

 

"The World is A Book -

Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only One Page" St. Augustine

 

One of the greatest persons of our time was Mother Theresa. Her physical strength, size, knowledge of languages, geography and finances never stopped her. She faced her fears and helped humanity in the name of Jesus. She did not do it in her village. She did not offer help to only Catholics. She helped humans who were in pain of all backgrounds. Mother Theresa believed, prayed and lived the message of Christ. She believed that if you love Christ you must look at each and every human being as Jesus in disguise. You cannot come to know Jesus and God unless you love all of his people. Her explanation and message is to reach out to another human being and do it "one at a time" or "one by one". Many of us want to save the world, and make peace in the world, but cannot help or forgive loved one or even worse we cannot forgive ourselves.

If we think and worry too much about ourselves, we won't have time for others. Next time you feel pain or resentment instead of sitting there and feeling sorry for yourself, listen to someone else and how they are dealing with their own pain. By hearing and praying for them you will help yourself.

Try to make at least one pilgrimage. Invite someone to come with you, spend some time with your loved ones, away from it all, because they are not going to be around (in this world as we know it) forever and neither will you. Say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you and to say, "I love you" to the people that mean the most to you. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish being in that moment with someone, for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to meet new friends, to see the world, to speak and to share the precious thoughts. No matter what - always give time for God.

I pray that one day you book a pilgrimage. Invite your family and friends to separate themselves from the "every day rut". You'll come back refreshed perhaps you’ll plan another pilgrimage, invite more people to join you and share with them what you have learned yourself.

Typically what happens the first time someone goes abroad, they start off by complaining to their tour leader and spiritual director about how there was no butter served with bread, how they miss their home… that is until they really put themselves into being in where they are with their heart instead of only * physically. It takes a while. But the next time they go, they know the purpose of going is to find new way of looking at things, new peace and new friendships, not what they have left at home.

Go meet new friends, see the world, share as you go you’ll notice that you have grown spiritually and you'll never be the same. Do not be afraid. God judges our successes by the obstacles we had to overcome.


THE LORD'S MESSENGERS

Since the time of Adam, God has spoken to His saints and prophets by means of visions, dreams, and inner voices. Miraculous events are common occurrences in the worlds of the Old and New Testaments and the lives of the saints are especially marked by this divine favor. God's request that His servants go on pilgrimage is first mentioned in Genesis when Abraham left for Canaan. Jacob received a similar request and the Jewish people's exodus from Egypt was another example. After Solomon, the Israelites were required to make a journey to the sanctuary at least once a year. Fulfilling the law, the Holy Family made this annual journey as well. Their pilgrimage is recalled in Luke 2:41-47 when Jesus was discovered missing during the Passover trip to Jerusalem.

But in our own time, the Eternal Father seems to be calling upon ordinary people.  The last century, in particular, was rich in numerous appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and Jesus Himself is said to have spoken to a few of the seers.  The Lord's messages remind us that Jesus has been offended by humanity's sin against His Sacred Heart.  His Blessed Mother, Mary calls humanity to prayer, repentance, conversion, peace, and a renewed devotion to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession.  Our Lady's messages implore a return to her Son as she lovingly reminds us of the endless mercy and love which are available to all.

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