What is a Pilgrimage?
At a certain point in our existence, one may perceive a profound sense of lacking something essential in our daily routine. This feeling manifests not only as the need to break with our everyday routines, but also as a search for something much deeper and more meaningful than a simple vacation: Coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt (They change not their soul but only the sky above their heads those whom cross the ocean). (Quinto Orazio Flacco, Epistulae I, 11, 27)
Contemporary man tends to avoid deepening this state of disquiet and insufficiency and uses any possible illusionary pleasure to deviate his attention from this inner question. However it appears that now, as it has been historically, more people are deciding to embark on a journey of the spirit, searching for the true purpose of existence and for a new way of perceiving the reality of life.
One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek: to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to enjoy the sweetness of the Lord, to seek out his temple. (Psalms 27:4)
To set off on a Holy journey… this is our hope for each one of our pilgrimages. To suddenly hear the call and to search for the destinations in which to tap into that water that Jesus mentioned to the Samaritan, the water that comes to restore the purity and all of the regal dignity of being God’s children. We participate in a pilgrimage in order to recover the lost Beauty, to shed light on our existence and adjust it, all according to the teachings of Jesus.
A pilgrimage is not simply a “trip,” but an itinerary towards religious destinations that are also important and significant. The journey covers a geographic distance, bringing us to travel our planet, admiring nature, the work of man, the signs that speak of his quest for God and of the civilizations of many people. A pilgrimage is a spiritual experience, aimed therefore at letting us complete an interior journey, inviting us deeply, because the geography and history of holy places bring together the heart and soul of those who travel, enriching them spiritually and humanly.
A pilgrimage is, therefore, a metaphor for life: the fatigue of traveling, the relaxation of arriving, the curiosity of the exploration, the enthusiasm of departing, everything relates to the commitment and—why not—the sacrifice, but also to the desire for a stable place, a fullness of life and peace.
Our role as the Church, as a community in Christ, pushes us to spread these Christian proposals. All of this also occurs materially when deciding to put oneself on the path of God. We, along with the entire Church, are called to spread the “Good Word” of the Son of God. Every pilgrimage wants to be an itinerary of the Spirit. We hope to offer everyone the opportunity to live an experience, an internal journey that answers the search for meaning in all our hearts.
Is more and cheaper a characteristic of the pilgrimage?
Often pilgrimages are confused with religious tourism trips that ask us to cover as many sites as possible with the “advantage” of a low price. In this way people are guided by economics only.
What about the real dimension of a pilgrimage, Kairos, the quality of time that connects us with the Eternal?
How can I perceive a sacred space in myself, where every pilgrimage as a journey of the Spirit originates where my Lord is calling me to meet Him? Discovering quiet in simple actions of contemplation which we can all embrace and accept is an experience that is possible to experience, by the help of Grace, during a pilgrimage. These possibilities are also present in life, but we are often taken away by the quantity of things to accomplish.
We need to recuperate this dimension of the pilgrimage. A real pilgrimage is not a sequence of a rushed number of visits that are sold with a good price. The spiritual experience that is the pilgrimage has different rules from the marketplace. Saving money and “seeing” more things does not guarantee the accomplishment of the spiritual duty behind the pilgrimage.
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A sacred journey
The pilgrimage is a sacred journey. The reason why it is sacred is because it engages an inner dialogue with God. It is not only the destination of the journey that is sacred. What really makes the pilgrimage God’s realm is an inner opening to His Presence, a need to establish a new relationship with Him. The Bible is the main example of this dialogue between God and the human being. In the Bible, God speaks about Himself and the relationship He wishes to establish with each of us.
“Pilgrimage” is an ancient Latin word, but the reality it designates belongs to the Greek word that means wandering, traveling to visit a sacred place, or in Christian language, a holy place.