Saturday, May 3, 2014

Get on the road: The case for taking a pilgrimage

The following comes from US Catholic:

Pilgrimages prove that in order to move your soul, you usually need to move your feet as well.
A few years ago, on an incongruously cushy tour bus with plentiful opportunities for shopping, I made a pilgrimage to Assisi. We had Mass every day and visited the sites where St. Francis lived. I chose to enter into the experience, however, on what I hoped would be a deeper level.
I made the lonely climb up Mount Subasio outside Assisi and crawled into a cave, just as Francis and his brothers would have done. I ran through the woods at La Verna, where Francis received the wounds of Christ, finding crevasses in the mountain where I imagined the saint took refuge from the cold. I ate very little and spent no money, accepting only what was pro-vided as part of the trip. I prayed constantly. I felt that I connected with the life of St. Francis—and therefore with Christ, whom he sought to imitate. The trip changed my life.
For thousands of years, pilgrims have traveled to places brimming with spiritual value—for Christians, often places connected to the lives of Christ, Mary, or the saints. In the centuries before the airplane, the locomotive, and the automobile, traveling to these destinations usually meant a prolonged journey of anywhere from several weeks to a year. Travelers made the trips for many reasons: to ask for divine aid, to fulfill a religious obligation, or to venerate an important place or object.
Historically, the journey has been as important as the destination. Pilgrims took a lengthy break from their daily routines. They left their families and work environments, entering into a new community of people. In this new group, everyone was equal, no matter how much money or status they possessed.
Along the way, pilgrims had time to reflect on their lives back home. They were free to let go of their current situations and seek interior conversion. The destination became the center of their world, where they hoped to directly encounter God.
Pilgrims, by embarking on an exterior, physical journey, take an interior journey as well. Pilgrimages work because they address a fundamental human principle: We use our experiences of the perceivable created world to connect with the creator, whom we cannot see. This is the sacramental principle, and the foundation of our faith.

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