Q. 1. What is a pilgrimage?
A. 1. A pilgrimage may be defined as a journey made to some place with the purpose of venerating it, or in order to ask there for supernatural aid, or to discharge some religious obligation. [Catholic Encyclopedia]
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 2691, "Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer. For pilgrims seeking living water, shrines are special places for living the forms of Christian prayer 'in Church.'"
# 1674 states that pilgrimages fall are "forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful." Such include " the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross..."
The word "pilgrimage" originated from the word "pilgrim." "Pilgrim" comes from the Latin word "peregrinum" which means wandering over a distance, not aimlessly, but for the purpose of honouring God.
Most countries have a holy place such as a major Cathedral or Shrine where many of the faithful gather at least once a year to seek the heavenly favour of the Blessed Virgin Mary or one of the Saints. In Canada, many pilgrims travel annually to the Oratory of Saint Joseph in Montreal, the Sanctuary of Cap-de-la-Madeleine in Trois Rivières, and then the Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupré.
In the United States, among many other Shrines, you will find the Shrine of St. Therese, in Juneau, AK, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, in Chicago, IL, the Marian Shrine (National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians), in Westhaverstraw, NY, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon, in North Jackson, OH, the Servants of Mary Center for Peace & Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Windsor, OH, and the House of Mary Shrine, in Yankton, SD.
The ultimate lifetime goal of all Catholics is to one day go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. For many, this dream will never be fulfilled because of the cost involved, the distance to travel, and the time that must be taken off work. As an alternative, they will visit local places of pilgrimage that can often be done over a weekend with the family. No matter where ones goes, pilgrimages benefit the soul. It is a time of spiritual growth and enrichment.