There’s an ancient practice in Christianity that’s lost some of it’s spice. That’s the practice of making pilgrimages. While the other two great monotheistic religions still incorporate pilgrimages into the rites of passage for their members, pilgrimages have a diminished role in Christianity. Catholicism actually offers the best opportunity for pilgrimages because our holy sites aren’t in just one region of the world. In fact, there are pilgrimage sites in every nation around the world where Catholicism has taken root.
While we tend to think of a pilgrimage as a long journey, our modern era affords all Catholics the ability to easily access pilgrimage sites. Many of us learned more about these local sites in 2000, the year of the great jubilee. For American Catholics, we don’t have to fly to Italy in order to make a pilgrimage. We could travel to such varied sites as Washington, San Francisco, La Crosse (WI), Emmitsburg (MD), Pittsburgh, and many more. A simple Google search will yield plenty of places to make a pilgrimage.
Even better, we might not even have to travel outside of our own Diocese. There are numerous Basilicas, Chapels, Monasteries, and Holy Sites all around us. A pilgrimage is not so much about the destination as it is about our mindset and how we carry it out. A pilgrimage is simply a religious journey. So, as you travel to a pilgrimage site, pray. While at the site, pray. As you return home, pray. There are indulgences to be gained for making a pilgrimage.
Another idea for making a pilgrimage is the tradition of “Church Hopping.” During the Easter Feast, after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, Churches around the world strip the altar and the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for adoration for a time. Church Hopping involves traveling to many local parishes and visiting our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Pilgrimages should be a regular part of your spiritual life, at least once annually. Not only is it a great practice, it can help expose you to the greater life of the Church. The Church’s daily mission is carried on in millions of Churches, institutions, and places throughout the world. By going beyond your own parish, you can experience the richness and treasures of the Church.
The experiences of a pilgrimage can be a particularly intense form of prayer for a special intention, or it can simply help you grow in your Catholic cultural acumen. The experience of pilgrimages remind us in a small way of the pilgrimage that we make every day, as people on Earth, working our way back to Heaven.
Pilgrimages offer the opportunity to grow and pray in a unique and new way. Adopt this practice in your own life and in that of your family’s.
Tags: Prayer Reflections