The Pilgrimage Experience
Pope John Paul II in Uganda, 1993

The Pilgrimage Experience

 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (Jn. 1:14)*

Pilgrims frequently describe their pilgrimage to the Holy Land as a life-changing experience. They find it difficult to express the absolute bliss they feel during this unique spiritual adventure.

As they literally follow the footsteps of Jesus, some find the journey a way to get closer to Jesus or to discover the roots of their Christian faith. Others recount passionate feelings of being human bridges for peace and reconciliation or of feeling part of the rich tapestry of religious history that inspires every corner of this Holy Land.

Despite the deeply personal nature of the Holy Land experience, the pilgrimage itself unites all believers as one. It unites them in Christ, in Faith and in their contribution to preserve the precious Christian heritage in this magnificent land.

“And he said to them, “Follow me…” (Matt. 4:19)*    

Pilgrimage has been part of the Christian tradition for centuries. A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey to a sacred place. The journey can be near or far — as close as a neighboring church or as distant as halfway around the world. It can be a day-trip, a 10- to 14-day excursion or any other duration.

Years ago, people went on pilgrimages in larger groups for safety, to protect themselves from bandits on unfamiliar roads in foreign lands. Today, many prefer to go in groups for ease in travel, to enjoy the benefit of a local guide, to have the opportunity to celebrate Mass and share in other forms of communal prayer, and to experience fellowship with other believers.

Why go?

There are a number of good spiritual reasons to make a pilgrimage. For many it is like a retreat, a time away from home and the regular routine to concentrate on the spiritual life without distractions — a time for prayer and meditation, learning and enrichment.

For others, it is a time of intercession, an opportunity to pray for a special intention or an occasion to offer thanksgiving for blessings received. Centuries ago, a pilgrimage was commonly assigned as a penance to make satisfaction for sins committed.

There are a number of things that a pilgrimage is not. It is not a vacation, a time to sit back, take it easy and relax. It is not a commercial tour, a time for sightseeing, entertainment, cultural experiences and fine dining. It is not a shopping trip, a time to go to specialty stores to get mementos and souvenirs for yourself and gifts for family and friends back home. A pilgrimage normally has some of these elements, but the itinerary — the schedule of sites to visit and the activities to be done there — is designed around the spiritual goals and objectives of the trip

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