Pilgrimages are not a new thing. People have journeyed to places of special spiritual significance for thousands of years. God calls on people to make pilgrimages. Going back to the time of the ancient Hebrews, the faithful were called to journey to Jerusalem on a regular basis — no easy task when travel was limited to walking or the use of a camel or donkey.

Even today pilgrimages are not easy. They often require long travel days by plane or on the bus, multiple hotel changes, eating food we are not used and keeping up with a busy schedule of long days often involving hours of walking.

Pilgrimages are not vacations. They are so much more than a vacation!

Even the Holy Family  made a pilgrimage from Nazareth to Jerusalem. So Our Lord himself participated in pilgrimages.  By going on a pilgrimage you are cooperating  with God’s will for you to visit  holy place. God may touch your heart in a special way, as he has touched the hearts of thousands of pilgrims, he may give your clarity about a particular issue that has been on your mind or he may lead you in a new direction in your life.

The most important part of a pilgrimage is to open your heart to hear how God is calling you, to receive the grace He is offering you, and to answer His call.

In participating in a pilgrimage, it is very important to open one’s heart to encounter God on his own terms. A pilgrimage takes us out of our normal environment and places us in a spot where God can make a special connection with us. Our job is to present and in the moment so the God encounter may come. 

All of us should be open to hearing God’s call and determine if he is asking us to make a pilgrimage. It may be to the Holy Land, or it may to be another place of spiritual significance. 

There are many other places where pilgrims find spiritual fulfillment, such as Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Assisi in Italy, Guadalupe in Mexico and even nearby places such as the Shrines of Philadelphia, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-deBeaupré in Quebec, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, the site of recently approved Marian apparitions in Wisconsin.

Open you heart and ask yourself if this is the year that God is calling you to make a special connection with him in a special place…to become a pilgrim.