Consider working a pilgrimage into your next day trip or family vacation.
A pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place that the traveler undertakes for spiritual growth. By going to the holy place, the pilgrim hopes to enter more fully into the presence of God. The journey itself is marked by prayer, charitable works, hospitality toward fellow travelers, and an attitude that any hardships encountered along the way are opportunities for spiritual growth.
There are literally thousands of Christian pilgrimage sites around the world . . . places where people have encountered God in a special way. Chances are good that there is a site near you or your vacation destination. Just a handful of pilgrimage possibilities include:
► St. John Paul II National Shrine. Visitors to this shrine in Washington, D.C., can also view exhibits on the life of Pope John Paul II and the history of Catholics in America.
► National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Located in Belleville, Illinois, this shrine features a variety of devotional areas, including a Children’s Memorial Playground, Annunciation Garden, Mother’s Prayer Walk, and more.
► El Santuario de Chimayó. This shrine in Chimayó, New Mexico, receives up to 300,000 visitors a year, and is famous for the healing power of its dirt.
► National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Located in La Crosse, Wisconsin, this shrine includes a rosary walk, Stations of the Cross walk, and Our Lady of Good Counsel Votive Chapel among its devotional areas.
► European pilgrimage sites. Europe is littered with pilgrimage sites, the most famous of which are Lourdes (France), Fatima (Portugal), Assisi (Italy), and of course St. Peter’s Basilica (the Vatican).
► World Youth Day. Hundreds of thousands of youth and young adults gather with the pope and other Catholic leaders during World Youth Day, which is held in a different country every three years. For a closer alternative, look into national youth festivals such as the National Catholic Youth Conference (in the United States), the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, or the Youth 2000 Summer Festival (Ireland).
► The Holy Land. A visit to the places featured in the Gospel is a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage.
You can find more pilgrimage sites by searching “Catholic pilgrimage” online; add the name of your state or city to find local sites. If you can’t find a widely recognized pilgrimage site that you can visit, you can choose another destination that has some spiritual significance: a cathedral or basilica, for instance; places associated with a saint or holy person; or a museum exhibit of religious art.