Pilgrimages are becoming increasingly popular.
There’s something about getting away from our screen-based everyday existence and having a break from technology. Making a journey to a place of calm and spiritual refreshment.
Pilgrimages can be big and lengthy projects. Or something short and spontaneous.
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
This summer I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where I walked the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem and stopped and prayed at each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. It was a wonderful experience and, despite the Via Dolorosa being in the heart of the bustling Muslim quarter of the City, it was moving to walk in the footsteps of Christ.
If you can’t travel as far away as the Holy Land, then there are plenty of alternatives that are nearer. A friend of mine recently walked part of the famous Camino pilgrimage in Spain – from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela – and found it a deeply healing and uplifting experience.
The Bitish Pilgrimage Trust
If that’s also too far or too long, there are pilgrimages even in London. This year I came across the British Pilgrimage Trust and in May I did a wonderful one day pilgrimage of historic churches from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey. We discovered holy wells and ancient stones, places of sanctuary and tombs of saints (see sketch above) and one of the leaders taught us some fabulous medieval songs to sing as we went along.
But maybe you can’t even spare a day in your own City.
If that’s you then you still can do a pilgrimage. You can do a one hour pilgrimage every Sunday morning. By getting out of bed and going to your local church.
Ah, you might say – that’s not really a pilgrimage.
But it is.
According to Wikipedia, a pilgrimage is ‘a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about the self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life.’
And going to church ticks all those boxes.
First, it’s a journey – a short walk or bus ride.
Secondly, it’s to an unknown or foreign place – certainly for most of us, who don’t go to church that often.
Thirdly, we go there in search of new or expanded meaning. That’s what Church is there for – to help us open and expand our minds to who we are, who others are and who is the source of our existence.
Fourthly, it can lead to personal transformation. This has certainly been my experience – that I am a new and better person as a result of my regular pilgrimages to church.
Fifthly, after church we return to our daily lives. We do. And yet, hopefully we do so, refreshed and transformed.
So, think about undertaking a pilgrimage yourself. It might be a big enterprise – requiring lots of planning, time and funding. Or it might be as simple as turning up at the church down the road.
Whatever you decide, may your pilgrimage be a journey that takes you closer to a life of truth and peace.