Six stages that characterize a pilgrimage

  1. The Call: The opening clarion of any spiritual journey. Often in the form of a feeling or some vague yearning, that summons and expresses a fundamental human desire; finding the meaning in an overscheduled world somehow requires leaving behind our daily obligations. Same is the enemy of spirituality.
  2. The Separation: Pilgrimage, by its nature, undoes certainty. It rejects the safe and familiar. It asserts that one is freer when one frees oneself from daily obligations of family, work and community, but also the obligations of science, reason, and technology.
  3. The Journey: The backbone of a sacred journey is the pain of the journey itself. This personal sacrifice enhances the experience; it also elevates the sense of community one develops along the way.
  4. The Contemplation: Some pilgrimages go the direct route, right to the center of the Holy of Holies, directly to the heart of the matter. Others take a more indirect route, circling around the outside of the sacred place, transforming the physical journey  into a spiritual path of contemplation.
  5. The Encounter: After all the toil and trouble, after all the sunburn and swelling, after all the anticipation and expectation comes the approach, the sighting. The encounter is the climax of the journey.
  6. The Completion and Return: At the culmination of the journey, the pilgrim returns home only to discover that meaning they sought lies in the familiar of one’s own world.

To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history…to go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe. – Pope Benedict XVI (Nov. 6, 2010)

Source: Archdiocese of San Antonio: Archbishop’s Appeal Office

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