Growing in Self and Spirit Through a Catholic Pilgrimage
The word “pilgrimage” initially brings up thoughts of faith-driven travel. Perhaps a person thinks of traveling to the Holy Land, Notre Dame Cathedral in France, Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, or any number of holy sites.
While the necessary aspect of physical travel is a central feature of a Catholic pilgrimage, the purpose behind it is so much more. Through dedication and prayer, pilgrims come closer to a deeper understanding of their spirituality.
As they progress along their journey, faithfuls learn how to live with a greater sense of faith and purpose — discovering new ways to feel connected with both the divine and their fellow traveler.
What is a Catholic Pilgrimage?
Pilgrims lighting candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
A Catholic pilgrimage is a journey—in body and spirit—that honors sacred sites and figures who have modeled holiness in their lives. Oftentimes, these pilgrimages are taken to places of worship such as cathedrals, monasteries, shrines or other holy sites.
Physical travel to such destinations can help a person grow closer to God, understand their faith more deeply, or find solace from life's troubles.
Pilgrimages in the Catholic Church
The natural desire of the human heart to leave home in order to encounter God in a physical place has been alive since ancient times. God’s faithful have traveled from their homes to a known holy site since the Old Testament.
- Abraham left home to make a sacrifice on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:1-19).
- Moses led God’s People through the desert to the Promised Land.
- The Israelites made a yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem during Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles to worship God in the Temple.
Like the Israelites before them, Catholics have made pilgrimages to places where God has worked and continues to work. Early Christians would travel to visit the remains of martyrs where they would pray and celebrate the Mass.
One of the earliest written accounts of a Catholic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land is from a woman named Egeria from the 4th century!
A Catholic Pilgrimage is a Spiritual Journey
However, what defines a Catholic Pilgrimage is the spiritual journey.
The real journey in a Catholic Pilgrimage is the heart’s movement to encounter the living God.
The choice to go on a Catholic Pilgrimage, then, is a choice to respond to God’s call to know and to love Him more deeply. It is not only a choice to see beautiful places (although that is one of the best parts of a pilgrimage!).
Why Do Catholics Go on Pilgrimages?
If a Catholic Pilgrimage is truly a spiritual journey, then why physically travel at all?
To answer that, we need a little theology! Catholics have a firm understanding that a person is both body and soul. The two make up the whole. So, what a person does with their body affects their soul. This means that where a person travels and the purpose of their travel can have a beautiful effect on the soul!
Leaving the familiarity of home to go on a Catholic pilgrimage has numerous benefits:
- Pilgrims gain the space and time to refocus on what matters. While immersed in the joy of the pilgrimage experience, it’s easier to remember that life is more than the daily grind. Pilgrims are able to open themselves to God and it becomes easier to pray and hear what God has to say.
- Gain a sense of rootedness, belonging and community with other pilgrims. As a pilgrim, you can find encouragement and support from like-minded travelers who are there for the same reason. It is a time of spiritual nourishment that can help recharge the soul and build a community where pilgrims can grow together in faith.
- Deepen your connection to the Scriptures. Being in the very places where Christ and the Saints once lived and enacted miracles enriches your readings of the Scriptures. Through your physical presence in each historical location, you can more vividly picture the teachings of the Bible. It’s an incredible experience to feel the gratitude and peace from being present at each holy site.
Someone doesn’t have to be Catholic to enjoy a pilgrimage! It’s an opportunity for anyone to reflect and encounter the living God.
3 Hallmarks of a Modern Pilgrimage
Sunset view of the cityscape in Lisbon, Portugal
It’s tempting to think that a pilgrimage will be extremely solemn or too serious to be fun. While a modern pilgrimage is a spiritual journey like it has been for centuries, it does not look exactly the same!
There are three hallmarks of a modern pilgrimage, namely a Glimmer Tours pilgrimage, that set it apart from others:
From the Middle East to Europe, there are countless cultural staples to enjoy, and modern pilgrimages are flexible enough to allow travelers the opportunity to learn about each country’s culture and experience the local cuisine. With Glimmer Tours, you will surely experience the cultural delights that make each destination unique.
Unlike ancient pilgrimages, modern tours are designed to be comfortable, accessible and enjoyable for all. Glimmer Tours works with only the best accommodations and amenities, so our pilgrims can rest easy in the best 4-star hotels and quality transports.
These days, a pilgrimage is so much more than a spiritual experience; it's an opportunity to explore the world and create lasting memories of beautiful places. In addition to visiting holy sites, Glimmer Tours pilgrims enjoy the historical architecture and arts unique to each area.
Expand Your Horizons With Us
In the Catholic tradition, a pilgrimage is an act of faith and devotion, which allows us to approach God in a sacred place and be open to His presence. But it’s also an opportunity to see the beauty of God’s creation and experience the world with fellow pilgrims.