Jubilee Pilgrimage Into The Third Millennium

By John Boucher

A pilgrimage is grounded in the need to rekindle the fire of faith. It's a spiritual adventure born of holy passion that begins with the decision to seek God in a physical place. It can be an opportunity for the evangelization of participants. Preparing, traveling, sight seeing, and the return home, all easily take on prophetic and sacred dimensions.

Perhaps this is why Pope John Paul II calls the entire Church to a Great Jubilee pilgrimage of conversion in his letter, On the Coming of the Third Millennium:

The whole of the Christian life is a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every human creature, and in particular for the 'prodigal son' (cf, Lk 15:11-32), we discover anew each day... The call to conversion, as the indispensable condition of Christian love, is particularly important in contemporary society, where the very foundations of an ethically correct vision of human existence often seem to have been lost. (Section 49 & 50)

The practice of pilgrimage began hundreds of years before Christ's birth, when Solomon's temple in Jerusalem became a site of pilgrimage for the Jews (1 Kgs. 8; 2 Chron. 7:8-10). Pilgrims to Jerusalem during the great annual feasts prayed, sang and reflected on Psalms 120 to 134 ("psalms of the ascents") as they approached the Holy City and the temple on Mt. Zion. In the New Testament, we catch glimpses of Jesus on pilgrimage (Lk. 2:41&42). He faithfully continued to practice this custom as an adult (Jn. 2:13; 7:2-10).

We are invited to join Jesus and the disciples on pilgrimage toward a new Advent and a new Pentecost as we approach 2,000 A.D. Below are some concrete ways:

1) Plan a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or Rome. Other recommended places for pilgrimage would be the sites of approved apparitions of Mary or national Saints' shrines. The United States Catholic Conference publishes a full listing of these entitled, Catholic Shrines and Places of Pilgrimage in the United States, publication #517-8, $9.95 plus postage (call 1-800-235-USCC).

2) Take a family-roots pilgrimage to deepen our conversion. Visit the homes and churches of our ancestors. Experience their holy places and catch the flavor of their spiritual lives and times.

3) Making occasional day trips and pilgrimages to local shrines or holy places (abbeys, monasteries, convents, etc.).

4) Take a private pilgrimage to our personal holy places. Where were we baptized? Where did we celebrate First Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony or Orders?

5) Take a small group or our family on a local pilgrimage to five or six parishes within driving distance of our home. Plan to go around All Saints Day, Advent/Christmas or Holy Week. Upon arriving, read aloud a short biography of the Saint after whom the parish is named and one of the "Pilgrim Psalms" (Psalms 120-134). Share with one another what struck us or called us to deeper conversion as we explored the building.

We can start today to ask God to rekindle the fire of our faith. Whether we journey near or far, we will be joining Jesus and the entire Church as we journey toward the Great Jubilee and the new evangelization.

Used by permission, Evangelization Update, May/June, 1998, p. 4, Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association, 3031 Fourth St., NE, Washington, DC 20017.

[John J. Boucher is the author/co-author of Following Jesus: A Disciple's Guide to Discerning God's Will (Dove Publications), Christian Marriage: Sacrament of Abiding Friendship (Resurrection Press) and From Ashes to Fire: Evangelistic Ash Wednesdays (CHARISM)].