The practice of going on a pilgrimage has a long tradition in Christianity: Faithful people have been journeying to holy places to pray for over 1,500 years.
Put simply, a pilgrimage is a trip for the purpose of growing in your faith. Historically, Christians have traveled to the Holy Land or some other place of sanctity, like the site of a Marian apparition or the burial place of a saint.
You don’t have to travel to a distant land to enjoy this experience. There are many ways to undertake a pilgrimage while staying close to home. Here are three options:
Go to a local apparition site or shrine
The United States has many shrines and holy sites. There’s probably at least one or two in your state.
A few examples are the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin, which is the only approved Marian apparition in America, the Loretto Chapel in New Mexico and the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Ohio.
Visit a local cathedral or basilica
A great way to plan your own pilgrimage is to go to a basilica or cathedral for Mass and confession. This can be your diocesan cathedral, a basilica near you or even one a little farther away. For example, you can visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. It’s a beautiful church, and it’s a classic holy place in America.
Go to a church you’ve never visited before
Is there a Church in your diocese that has a reputation for being beautiful, but you’ve never seen it? Or a chapel with a Marian grotto or beautiful prayer site? Any of these would make a perfect short pilgrimage!
Whatever spot you pick, just don’t overthink it too much. The point of this practice isn’t about traveling far; it’s about reflecting on our status as travelers to God and praying that He helps us on our journey. If you do that, then your pilgrimage was a success.