DAY 7: Pilgrimage
There are two types of people in the world: those that like to hit the open road and those who prefer to stay at home. Whether or not you prefer to stay on your couch nestled under a cozy blanket or enjoy a long road trip with loved ones, a great form of piety that can foster our sacramental life is to make a pilgrimage. Of course, a pilgrimage is different from other road trips, and the idea of pilgrimage can feel foreign in today’s world.
However, a “pilgrim” is one who journeys for a religious reason. The endpoint of the journey is typically a holy place, perhaps a church or a shrine, but the end goal is altogether different than a vacation spot. Pilgrimage is not simply about landing at a geographic location but about transforming the heart. “Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2691). You may have heard of pilgrimages to Lourdes, the Holy Land, or perhaps the Camino. All of these are amazing opportunities to encounter God’s grace. Yet, traveling across the world is not the only way to experience pilgrimage. Anything that intentionally turns our mind to eternity and renews our prayer can be a pilgrimage.
Even if you’ve never partaken in an official pilgrimage, the truth is that the Church on earth is constantly on pilgrimage toward heaven. Pilgrimage allows us to meditate on the reality that, just as a pilgrim travels from one location to the next, each of us is journeying closer to our eternal home. This truth, when internalized, allows us to shed the weight of this world more easily as we race towards the finish line of life (Hebrews 12:2). Whether or not a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or Rome is in your future, each of us can make our weekly venture to the Sunday liturgy a private pilgrimage because, at the altar, Jesus meets us and presents himself to us as food for our journey forward. Today, let us take an intentional step toward eternity with the confidence that Jesus is with us.
Jesus, we know this world is not our home. Thank you for being our faithful companion on this pilgrimage. We pray that you grant us the grace to continue this journey forward, that each day we may take a step closer to you and your perfect will for our lives. Be our strength as we experience the ups and downs of life. Remain with us as we continue our way home to you.
Pray about whether God is calling you on pilgrimage. If so, how? Is your parish or diocese planning a pilgrimage in the near future? Or make a pilgrimage to Mass on Sunday, naming a specific intention that you offer up when you receive the Blessed Sacrament. (If you want your pilgrimage to be different than your normal routine, attend Mass at the nearest cathedral or basilica, offering prayer while you travel)