Jun 18, 2014
Today, more and more people are using vacation time to go on a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred site or shrine. Reasons for doing so vary. Pilgrimages may be done for physical healing or spiritual healing thus effecting a person’s inner transformation. A pilgrimage is not a retreat. One does not go into solitude for a few days to pray and to reflect on one’s life in silence. Pilgrimages are often made in groups where there is interchange and sharing about life with its aspirations, problems, and foibles. There is prayer, liturgical and communal, and of course, laughter and good cheer. Going on pilgrimages gives one a respite from the hum-drum grind of daily life. Pilgrimages resemble vacations that restore body, mind, heart, and one other essential, faith.
For centuries, pilgrimages have been done by virtually all faith-traditions. Buddhists visit Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace or Bodh Gaya, place of Enlightenment, and Hindus visit major temple cities throughout India. Able-bodied Muslims travel to Mecca at least once in a lifetime to make the Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. For Jews, the Wailing Wall is a most sacred site.
Life as a Pilgrimage
Going on a pilgrimage is one way of allowing the physical journey to strengthen the inner journey. Medieval Christians had a specific vision of life: ‘We have here no lasting city. Life is a journey, a pilgrimage to the Promised Land—to life beyond the here and now.’ Today, this image is not so prevalent or popular. ‘Eat, sleep, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die’ is on the contemporary mind, if not on the lips. Still, even secular men and women must acknowledge that life does move steadily and irrevocably forward on a trajectory, at least chronologically. How each of us makes this journey is a personal question that calls for a personal response. We may say then that we are all pilgrims—at home everywhere and at home nowhere. We are a people on the road, moving forward toward the beyond. For Catholics, belief in the Communion of Saints becomes palpable, thereby taking on greater meaning in the here and now.