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Pilgrimage Essay

A pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place for a religious reason. A pilgrimage may be one person or a whole community travelling to perform a ritual together at a holy place. The important thing is that it is a journey to a religious place. It is not obligatory to go on a pilgrimage unlike other religions but it has been important to the Catholic Church for many centuries. It is said that life is like a pilgrimage as people move through time from birth to death. We move along and learn new things along the way. Going on religious pilgrimages helps people in their spiritual life. People go on pilgrimages because:

  • To seek God’s forgiveness, or to seek penance for a particular saint that haunts them
  • To obtain favour for themselves; to be cured of an illness, to achieve success, to overcome a difficulty in their life and so on
  • To seek special help for a friend or family member, who is having a difficult time in their life
  • To thank God for a blessing that they have received from him
  • To fulfil a promise made to God
  • To become more aware of God, and become more close to him

A pilgrimage centre is a place where:

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  • A vision of someone important has occurred
  • A relic of a saint is kept
  • It is connected with important events in the life of a holy person
  • It has a long history of pilgrimage
  • Important events in Christian history have occurred

Pilgrimages benefit a person in many ways:

  • It helps in their search for God, they often feel closer to God and more involved with him on the pilgrimage
  • It helps people to be more aware of the passing away of their life, of their limited time on earth. It sets them thinking and helps them to work out a sense of priorities
  • It is making an effort, and this helps them to have a disciplined spiritual life. People feel they are getting up and doing something to draw themselves closer to God
  • Some places have such a strong atmosphere that it encourages the pilgrim to have a great religious devotion. Many people who come back from Lourdes or Fatima speak of the powerful atmosphere of the shrine and its effect on them
  • They become more selfless through the experiences they have encountered on their journey e.g. by helping other people when they don’t have to
  • They may begin to understand the people that aggravate them and that things cannot be perfect in the world
  • They sometimes seem to have acquired the gifts of the Spirit of God; gentleness, peace, kindness, patience and so on

An example of a pilgrimage centre in Lourdes. Lourdes, in the South of France, is one of the most well-known places of pilgrimage. This is where St Bernadette is said to have seen the Virgin Mary. Over a period of six months in 1958, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared eighteen times to Saint Bernadette (aged 14) on a grotto just outside Lourdes in Southwest France. She revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception and caused a spring to flow in the grotto. She is called the Immaculate because Christians believe that she was kept free from the effects of sin when she was born. This was to prepare her for giving birth to Jesus.

Since then Lourdes has become a centre of pilgrimage. Many pilgrims believe that the spring which flows in the grotto has miraculous healing powers and over 5000 cases of healing miracles are claimed to have occurred at Lourdes. During the pilgrimage, there are Special Masses, candlelit processions in the dark and many youth activities. Many young people come to Lourdes, often to help the sick seeking a cure. When coming to Lourdes many people visit:

  • The mill where St Bernadette was born
  • The prison where her family were kept
  • The spring where they will drink or bathe in the water
  • They will walk the Stations of the Cross, above the grotto
  • The chapel built on the rock of the grotto

During these activities the special Lourdes hymn will be sung: ” Immaculate Mary’ our Hearts on fire. That Title so wondrous fills All our desire. Ave, ave, ave Maria” Many people go to Lourdes to get healed from an illness that they have. Many who hope to be healed, and are not, say that going to Lourdes has helped them to cope with their illness better and are now stronger in mind and can accept the illness Another example of a pilgrimage centre is Fatima.  Fatima, in West Portugal, is another important place of pilgrimage. This is where the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared six times to three Shepard children, known as the ‘The Three Seers’. She promised to them that Heaven would grant peace to the entire world if her requests for prayer, reparation and consecration were heard and obeyed. In all her appearances at Fatima, the Blessed Mother emphasized the necessity:

  • Of praying the Rosary daily,
  • Of wearing the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel
  • Of performing acts of reparation and sacrifice

To prevent the terrible chastisement at the hands of Russia and to convert “that poor nation”, Our Lady requested the solemn public Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart by the Pope and all the Catholic bishops of the world. She also asked that the Faithful practise a new devotion of reparation on the first Saturday of five consecutive months (“the Five First Saturdays”) The heart of Our Lady’s Message to the world is contained in what has come to be called the “Secret” which she confided to the three seers. The Secret consists of three parts:

  • The first part of the Secret was a horrifying vision of hell “where the souls of poor sinners go” and contained an urgent plea from Our Lady for acts of prayer and sacrifice to save souls
  • The second part of the Secret specifically prophesied the outbreak of World War II and contained the Mother of God’s solemn request for the Consecration of Russia as a condition of world peace. It also predicted the inevitable triumph of Her Immaculate Heart following Russia’s consecration and the conversion “of that poor nation” to the Catholic Faith
  • The last part of the Secret (often called the “Third Secret”) has not yet been made public but was written down by Lucy Dos Santos, the last living Fatima seer, in 1944. Most sources speculate that this portion of the Secret concerns chaos in the Catholic Church, predicting widespread apostasy and a loss of faith beginning in the seventh decade of the 20th century

When visiting Fatima the pilgrim will take part in many activates and visit different places:

  • Candlelit processions
  • Mass at the Little Chapel of Apparitions
  • The graves of Francesco and Jacinta’s
  • The sites of the apparitions
  • Walk the Stations of the Cross
  • Pray for the sick
  • Drink water from the well

Many people nowadays feel as though pilgrimages are not counted as spiritual journeys that much and they are just an excuse for a holiday. Pilgrimages in the past were thought of as an important part of their religious life, it’s the same now but not many people feel that way. People think we’ll go on a holiday to this place e.g. south France and while we are there we’ll go to this place e.g. Lourdes because I’ve heard all this stuff about it. This holiday vibe isn’t helped by the commercialization of the area, a town around the pilgrimage centre, although the main centre its self is untouched, the places leading up to the centre are usually full of little market stalls and shops that sell tacky gifts.

Some stalls will sell souvenirs or objects which have relevance to religion and will help them in their lives e.g. rosaries, pictures of religious figures etc but many are just there to be sold as souvenirs of materialistic value such as rulers and t-shirts just to show people they have been to Lourdes. Many people will say, that although it is becoming a bit like a market most of the objects sold are statues and rosaries which will help to focus a person on religion and it is nice to have a few reminders of the places they have been to. It shouldn’t affect the value of the place to the pilgrim because the centre of pilgrimage is left unspoilt; it’s kept free from all these market stalls. Technically the pilgrim is there to visit the centre itself not to go shopping so it shouldn’t distract people from what they are there for and reduce the value.

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Pilgrimage Essay. (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved May 9, 2021, from