Pilgrimage a spiritual journey

By  Stephanie Buosi, Youth Speak News
  • March 1, 2009
When I was younger I had the chance to visit Rome to climb and pray on the Santa Scala. Tradition has it that these steps were part of the praetorium of Pilate in Jerusalem and that Jesus is thought to have climbed when he was sent to Pontius Pilate to be judged. The steps are considered to be so holy that pilgrims are asked only to ascend on their knees as a sign of respect and worship.

As a child of 12, I failed to grasp the true significance of this experience. Yet despite my minimal understanding, when I participated to the best of my ability, I was still able to feel a connection with God. To this day, it is still one of my most cherished memories as a practising Catholic. At the time I had not known that I had embarked on a pilgrimage. All I understood was a deep feeling of peace and thankfulness. When many hear the word “pilgrimage,” the image that comes to mind (and at one point, my own as well) is a journey. A time to put aside our lives and travel to a country or city which houses a significant religious landmark. Unfortunately, those who use this definition may hold the mentality that they are not able to partake in one due to expense or availability.

A pilgrimage however, is not only a literal journey but a spiritual one. It is an invitation, a personal summons from God, to spend the time to reconnect or enhance your relationship with Him. To accomplish this, it is true that we must remove ourselves from our everyday activities and lifestyle. This is to shed our stress, obligations and responsibility which would only distract and hinder us from answering God’s invitation. When we decide to take part in a pilgrimage, we are saying yes to His invitation.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean we must travel to Rome, Jerusalem or another distant religious setting to separate ourselves from our everyday lives. As Emmanuel Levinas, a Jewish philosopher, once stated, we can encounter “traces” of God in everything. We are reflections of the Lord and we can find a trace of Him in our own being. A pilgrim’s location is thus determined by the individual. We can retreat to a place where we feel most at peace. For some, this can be their local church, home, a park bench or even a spa.

God’s invitation to us is not only reusable but flexible. To Him, the location does not matter as long as we take the time to clear our minds for reflection and worship, allowing Him to join us. Simply laying down and reflecting on a Bible passage could also be considered a journey, as our minds are removed from present life into the word of God. A successful pilgrimage is one where we are able to abandon our problems to open our minds, heart and soul. This way we are free to ask and receive God’s grace, peace and understanding and return to our regular lives transformed.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t visit the many religious landmarks. In fact, the experience is truly worthwhile and recommended as we are able to be a part of our religious history. What is important for us to remember though, is that you don’t need to take a plane trip in order to travel to God.

(Buosi, 17, is a Grade 12 student at St. Augustine Secondary School in Brampton, Ont.)

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