The Road. The Truth. The Life.
Jesus said, ‘I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.’ [John 14:6]
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The Meaning of Pilgrimage
Many people may not fully understand the deeply personal and religious nature of the act of pilgrimage. To some, taking a trip to Rome, Lourdes, or Medjugorje with your spouse, spiritual director, or parish may sound like an excuse to take a few days off from work, and experience a new culture and new foods. However, a pilgrimage is not a vacation.
Vacation 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.
A Pilgrimage, 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, rather it is 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 thousands of listening pilgrims in 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 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. A Pilgrimage challenging – it takes us out of our comfort zone and can 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.
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“To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself” – Pope Benedict XVI
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