Recently, I ventured on an incredible pilgrimage to Israel and Italy with my daughter, Lisa. I’m looking forward to sharing photos and information about it in following posts. One thing I can tell you now is that it was memorable, moving, and spiritually uplifting.
A pilgrimage is a special kind of a trip. It is not a vacation but may include some relaxing and playful moments. However, the primary intention is for spiritual growth and enrichment. It typically comes at great cost—time away from loved ones and the comforts of home in addition to the financial expense. At the very least, it stretches us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
A Christian pilgrimage is symbolic of our journey to Christ and ultimately, heaven. In primitive times, it was believed it to be necessary to go to locations of spiritual importance at least once in a lifetime to show devotion and pay homage to the divine. It was a religious obligation and important to accomplish before passing on to the next life. Pilgrimages may also be made as an act of penance or petition.
The idea of a pilgrimage is founded in both the Old and New Testaments. God summoned Abram to leave his land. Moses led the Israelites through the desert. And early Christians continued this practice traveling to locations where Jesus walked as well as the tombs of saints and martyrs since at least the 4th century. Crusaders are known to have protected pilgrims praying in the Holy Land from the 11th century.
Today, pilgrims journey to sacred sites with the intent of growing closer to God. Every step should be prayerful and contemplative. We learn and grow in enlightenment and spiritual strength with the assistance of clergy, guides, and fellow travelers. Some of the important Catholic sites include the Holy Land in Israel; Rome, Italy; Fatima, Portugal; Lourdes, France; and Mexico City, Mexico.
If traveling across the globe isn’t possible, seek retreat centers, churches, or sites within your time, budget, and physical capabilities that correspond with biblical passages or related to the saints. We don’t always have to go far to dedicate time to build on our faith. Shrines can be found nearby with a quick Google search.