The Real Meaning Of Pilgrimage For Catholics
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
A pilgrimage is a journey that pilgrims make to a place that is considered holy. To us Catholics, a pilgrimage is more than just traveling to historic sites and viewing religious relics. It is a journey with a deeper and more spiritual meaning.
What is a Pilgrimage?
The word pilgrim comes from the Latin word “peregrinum” which conveys the idea of wandering over a distance. A pilgrimage is not purposeless wandering. It is a journey with a higher purpose and that purpose is to honor God.
One of the earliest use of the word can be found in works of Saint Augustine of Hippo. In his text, “Peregrinatio,” he described a Christian spiritual journey as a self-imposed exile of the pilgrim in which he searched for God’s truth
Pilgrimages are steeped in religious history. It all started around 957 BC when the temple was built at Jerusalem and because of this all Jewish men were obliged to present themselves there for three major feasts. These feasts include the Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Pesach), the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Shavu’ot) and the Feast of Tabernacles or Festival of Ingathering (Sukkot). Today the Jews call these feasts the “Pilgrimage Festivals.”
After the death and resurrection of Jesus and the spread of Christianity, Christians were inspired to follow the footsteps of their Savior, the Holy Mother and the Apostles. Pilgrimages became a significant part of the Catholic tradition in the 4th century when Christians traveled to different places that were part of Jesus’ life or in the tombs of martyrs and saints.
Many devotees would visit these sites and tombs even during a time of religious persecution. This act served as a deep expression of their reverence for God. By honoring the saints, the pilgrims honored God, too.