During the Year of Mercy, Catholics are invited to make a pilgrimage to one of several Doors of Mercy.
Special days of pilgrimage have also been arranged at these locations.
The word “pilgrim,” derived from the Latin peregrinum, conveys the idea of wandering over a distance, but it is not just aimless wandering. It is a journey with a purpose, and that purpose is to honor God.
Pilgrimage has a long history in our faith tradition. Once the temple was built at Jerusalem (ca. 957 B.C.), all Jewish men were obliged to present themselves at it for the three major feasts: Pesach (the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or Passover), Shavu’ot (the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles, or Festival of Ingathering), as per God’s ordinance in Deuteronomy 16:16-17. On their way to the Temple, they would sing the “pilgrim songs” (also called “songs of assent” or “gradual canticles”), namely, Psalms 119-133. To this day, these feasts are called, “Pilgrimage Festivals” by the Jews.
After the death and resurrection of the Incarnate God and the spread of Christianity, adherents felt a longing to tread in the footsteps of their Savior, His Holy Mother, and His chosen followers, the holy Apostles. Even in the early centuries, when millions of Christians were martyred for their Faith, the faithful flocked to the tombs of favorite saints to venerate their remains, sometimes at the risk of being martyred themselves. What were their motives? Some pilgrimages were done in penance for sin; some were done in petition for a special blessing or favor; and some were undertaken simply out of devotion.
One of the earliest usages of the word is found in the writings of Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430). His work, Peregrinatio, described a Christian spiritual journey as a kind of self-imposed exile of the pilgrim in which he searched for God’s Truth in his wanderings while visiting the holy shrines of the Faith.Excerpt from http://catholicism.org/catholic-pilgrimage-a-spiritual-journey.html
Suggestions for making a fruitful Pilgrimage
- The pilgrim must understand that he is not simply making a trip or engaging in tourism. Rather, he or she is making a journey with the Lord to a holy place in order to encounter the Lord in a special way.
- For a pilgrimage to be effective, it must be inspired and sustained by prayer all along the way.
- The pilgrimage must be accompanied by spiritual reading, especially reading that pertains to the holy place that is the goal of the pilgrimage.
- It is important in making pilgrimage to give sufficient time for prayer, meditation, and silence before the presence of Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament at the place of pilgrimage.
- The confession of our sin and the reception of God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance are also essential.
- If possible, the pilgrim should attend Mass at the pilgrimage destination.