We live in a time where we are constantly assailed by noise and busyness.
If we walk away from our computers, our phone begins to ring or buzz. We go out to eat and there are televisions on every wall. Exercise equipment in the gym is now equipped with TV as the pounding music rages from the cycling room.
To keep our sanity and refresh our souls, sometimes we need longer periods of silence than we can find in Mass or daily prayer. A holy pilgrimage is one of the most powerful ways we can break out of the noise and renew our ability to hear God’s voice.
I love the idea of pilgrimage, especially for people — and there are a lot of us — who work very hard and are really grinding it out on a day-to-day basis while giving our lives to the Lord in whatever way He’s called us. We can get in a rut, we can get in patterns of sin, we can get consumed with the noise and activity, and we can lose perspective.
Pilgrimage is a way to break the pattern and gain clarity. In fact, I would venture to say that there are few ways to achieve this break and the Church in her wisdom has always drawn her faithful to this holy quest through pilgrimages and silent retreats.
A non-Christian may look in and see us going on pilgrimage and think, “Well, that’s a vacation,” but we do not travel to a holy place for the sake of sipping margaritas and laying on the beach (though this can happen in a holy context).
We travel with one goal in mind: to strengthen our relationship with our Lord.
Pilgrimage isn’t supposed to be easy all the time; it’s supposed to be something that challenges our souls to pay attention to what is most important. It really means breaking away from the everyday distractions and giving our hearts over to God for a special purpose or intention or to learn something about Him.
Historically, people would save up for long periods of time, even if they were poor, to go on pilgrimage and give themselves the ability to practice this holy tradition. Many of us have put the distractions of life first and this practice seems to have waned in America. It is time to make the time as we only have one chance to avoid the path to hell and solidify our trek on the narrow path to heaven.
There are special spiritual graces that come only through pilgrimages and coming into contact with holy sites. When we go to these holy sites where the Holy Spirit has worked so powerfully through the faith of people and we open ourselves to God, we can come to a profound encounter with Him that could not have otherwise been realized in another place or another kind of situation.
As Catholics, we recognize that the saints are still alive and they are with the Lord. They desire to help us to heaven and to the spiritual riches that Christ has for us. We can, and we should, regularly reach out to them and ask for their help by visiting them at their holy sites.
In March, SpiritualDirection.com and the Avila Institute will offer one such chance for a pilgrimage. Teresa Tomeo and I will be leading a pilgrimage to Spain visiting the holy sites of Teresa of Avila, one of three women Doctors of the Church.
Sites include the Monastery of St. Joseph, Teresa’s first foundation; Cathedral of Avila and Convent of St. Teresa (site of her birth); and the Monastery of the Incarnation where Teresa spent many years of her life in solitude. While in Segovia, we will celebrate Mass at the Carmelite Convent where St. John of the Cross is buried and the Cathedral of Segovia which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and continues to be a place of worship and prayer for Catholics around the world. On day 5, the pilgrimage will have the opportunity to venerate the tomb of St. Teresa of Avila and much, much more. The pilgrimage is meant to visit the holy sites at a pace that allows for prayer and devotion.
For more information, please click HERE.
Whether you decide to join me in Spain or take the time to have a pilgrimage elsewhere, please remember that there are spiritual riches to be seen all over the world and it is important that you take the time for your spiritual well-being.