Stages of Pilgrimage
The following is a guide and inspiration for making such a journey – A Pilgrimage.
I am convinced that pilgrimage is still a bona fide spirit renewing ritual. But I also believe in pilgrimage as a powerful metaphor for any journey for the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler.
With a deepening of focus, keen preparation, attention to the path and respect for the destination at hand, it is possible to transform the most ordinary journey into a sacred journey, a pilgrimage. ~ Phil Cousineau
A Pilgrimage Has Six Stages:
I. A Yearning
III. The Journey
IV. The Arrival
V. The Sacred Experience
VI. The Return
By: A. Joseph Rosado
I. The Yearning
“The centre of me is always searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfigured and infinite – the beatific vision – God,…. it fills every passion that I have – it is the actual spring of life within me.” ~ Betrand Russell, Philosopher
In our modern world there is abundant searching, we google, visit chat rooms, twitter and blog. We read horoscopes, hold special stones, Feng Shui our homes, visit therapists, mediums, have plastic surgery, take drugs, drink alcohol, it’s an endless list. In the middle ages it was simpler, people knew they were searching for God.
As St. Augustine wrote, “Truly our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you, O God.”Goethe calls it the “holy longing”. It is this desire that leads to your holy quest, your pilgrimage. You realize you have the need, the hope and faith that making a special journey will transform your life.
We thirst at first. ~ Emily Dickenson
“The Pilgrim’s instinct is deep set in the human heart. It is indeed an affair of the heart rather than the head.” ~ Evelyn Waugh
III. The Journey
The journey allows you time to prepare for your arrival and provides a transition period. You can look at your life’s realities from a different perspective and in a different context. In medieval times pilgrimages were long and difficult. Pilgrims found that by creating a daily rhythm of spiritual and physical habits the journey was made easier. Enjoy the camaraderie of fellow pilgrims, welcome surprises and adventures, be generous in aiding others, and accept difficulties as a part of the journey, learning lessons from hardships.
“On a long journey of human life, faith is the best of companions; it is the best refreshment on the journey; and it is the greatest property.” ~ Buddha
Thoughts for the Journey:
Common sense and good nature will do a lot to make the pilgrimage of life not too difficult. ~ W. Somerset Maugham
“He who leaves home in search of wisdom walks in the path of God.” ~ Mohammad
“You cannot travel the path until you have become the path.” ~ Buddha“
We are pilgrims on the earth and strangers; we have come from afar and we are going far.” ~ Vincent van Gogh
Aim at heaven and you will get the earth thrown in. Aim at the earth and you will get neither. C.S. Lewis
What saves a man is to take a step. Then another. ~ C.S. Lewis
“We attribute much to chance meetings, refer to them as turning points in our life, but these encounters could never have occurred had we not made ourselves ready for them. If we possessed more awareness, these fortuitous encounters would yield still greater rewards. It is only at certain unpredictable times that we are fully attuned, fully expectant, and thus in a position to receive favors of fortune. The man who is fully awake knows that every ‘happening’ is packed with significance.’ ~ Henry Miller
To get through the hardest journey you need to take only one step at a time, but you must keep stepping. ~ Chinese Proverb
Joan, a woman with Down Syndrome, always walked much slower than everyone else. At first that caused anxiety-‘We’ve got to walk 20k by this evening-How will we ever get there?’ But walking alongside Joan, and listening to her, I heard: Hello sun, hello tree, hello stone, and hello birds’. Often Joan would stop and look for a long time at one thing, or have a little chat with herself. She was aware of everything around her, enjoying being in the open air, completely unconcerned for our deadlines and targets. And in this way, she was much more able to be aware of the gifts of the earth, of the gifts of each moment along the way, than I was, with my constant goal-oriented and worry about getting somewhere else.
John, a man with severe learning disabilities, who walked with us, was just happy to walk, it didn’t matter to him whether we were walking to Santiago or John O’ Groats. The rhythm of the walking, being alive in his body, in the open air – that was what counted for him. ..John’s lesson to us was that it is the walking - the being present in that moment – that matters.
God is not far off at the end of our journey, he is present with us every step of the way. … For our little group of walkers and for many of those whom we met along the way, Joan and John became pilgrim teachers.”~ On the way to Santiago de Compostela, Hugh Nelson
“Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.Walk beside me and be my friend.” ~ Albert Camus
V. The Sacred Experience
Relics – were at the heart of medieval pilgrimages. They are holy objects believed to have spiritual, healing energy stored in them – the power of the supernatural and the possibility of miraculous cures. Often they were tangible remains of Saints – bones, clothing or objects that were made holy through contact with the saints, the Virgin Mary, or Christ. Some of the more famous relics are the Shroud of Turin, the remains of St. James at Compostela, the skulls of the three Magi in Cologne, in Rome the remains of St. Peter and St. Paul and thorns from the Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame in Paris.
The belief of miracles through relics has biblical roots. There is the Old Testament story – Kings 13: 14-21 of the man accidently put in the tomb of the prophet Elisha, who when his body touched the bones of the prophet sprang back to life. In Mark 5:28-34 a woman is healed by touching Jesus’ cloak. In Acts 19:11-12 there is the description of the miracle healings by the handkerchiefs of St. Paul when they are given to the sick.
“Try as you will, you cannot annihilate that external relic of the human heart.” ~ Victor Hugo
“Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.” ~ Emily Bronte“
Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God. ~ Anon
Prayer and meditation
In a sacred environment, one has a unique opportunity of experiencing personal revelations, peace of mind, longed for healings, and what Henry Miller describes as “something beyond bliss.”
“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard
“Trouble and perplexity drive me to prayer and prayer drives away perplexity and trouble. ~ Phillip Melanchthen
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~ Mother Teresa
“Prayer may not change things for you, but it sure changes you for things. ~ Samuel Shoemaker
“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves into crystal clearness.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi“Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.” ~ St. Augustine
Miracles and Healing
Every sacred destination has healing miracles associated with it – spiritual and physical. In truth, for some physical healing is the great motivation for pilgrimage. Historically these miracles were mainly in less scientific medieval time. In recent years, pilgrimage miracles have been associated with sacred sites where divine visions occurred like Lourdes or Knock. In rare cases sight is restored, the deaf can hear, the lamb walk, cancer cells disappear. At Lourdes since 1947 a Catholic Church bureau uses strict medical criteria to examine miracles. The committee has examined 1,300 claims and presented 29 to the church, which recognized 19 as miracles. The reason most claims are not recognized is medicine was being taken or the original diagnosis was not authenticated or clear cut. Of course if you’re healed these details are irrelevant. The real miracle is how every affected person feels strengthened and spiritually refreshed from a visit. Another truth discovered is how helping others less fortunate connect with healing yourself. In fellowship and aid to others personal problems often disappear. As Mother Teresa discovered when helping others ‘one can do anything with nothing’ arguably the true miracle.
“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing. ~ Mother Teresa
“Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are. ~ Rachel N. Remen
When a cynical reporter found out Albert Einstein was religious he asked him if he believed in miracles. Einstein’s response was “show me something that isn’t.”“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein“
AS for me, I know nothing else but miracles. Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water; or stand under the trees in the woods. Or talk by day with anyone I love, or sleep in bed at night with anyone I love, or watch honey bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon…Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring… What stranger miracles are there?
~ Walt Whitman
II. The Preparation
“The day on which one starts out is not the time to start one’s preparations.” ~ Nigerian Folk Saying.
Once the yearning is recognized you must plan and clarify. What is your sacred cause, your purpose? Plan so you can achieve it.
Historically, pilgrimages were serious affairs covering long distances and taking months or even years. It was necessary to make detailed preparations for practical matters – paying bills, securing the house, making special family arrangements and learning as much as possible about the “holy” destination and any special journey requirements.There were also traditional clothes and accessories. These were a “wide brimmed hat” for sun and rain protection, a “script”, a small leather satchel or bag in which documents, money, food and souvenirs were kept, a “staff”, used as walking and climbing stick, as a pole for vaulting streams, and a weapon against fierce dogs and other animals, a long coat that could double as a blanket, a water bottle and most importantly suitable shoes.
Mental and spiritual preparation included the focusing of objectives, discussing the trip with fellow pilgrims and churchman. These preparations strengthen the faith in oneself and one’s beliefs. Use them and you develop a new mindset of great anticipation with a willingness to seek new experiences and high hopes that the journey will bring about physical and spiritual transformations.
“The practice of soulful travel is to discover the overlapping point between history and everyday life, the way to find the essence of every place, every day: In the markets, small chapels, out of the way parks, craft shops. Curiosity about the extraordinary in the ordinary moves the heart of the traveler intent on seeing behind the veil of tourism.”~
Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage
IV. The Arrival
This is a great moment, when you see, however distant, the goal of you wandering. The thing which has been living in your imagination suddenly becomes a part of the tangible world. Freya Stark
If you miss the moment, you miss your life. ~ John Daido Loori
The Five Excellent Practices of Pilgrimage:
- Practice the arts of attention and listening.
- Practice renewing yourself every day.
- Practice meandering toward the center of every place.
- Practice the ritual of reading sacred texts.
- Practice gratitude and praise singing.
“Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” ~ Exodus 3 : 5-6
“The sense of threading ground made holy by past events is crucial. The experience of the pilgrim in actually walking in the way of others enables them to become a participant in all that has happened. The pilgrim becomes one with all that has gone before.” ~ Martin Robinson
I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the hearts affections and the truth of imagination – what the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth – whether it existed before or not. ~ John Keats
VI. The Return
“Old things are past away, all’s become new. Strange! He’s another man, upon my word…ending of John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress.
A pilgrimage is a metaphor for life, your journey on earth in miniature. Lessons learned and transformations become part of who you are. Put pilgrimage souvenirs in one special place and record your thoughts of this precious journey.
“Keep the pilgrim spirit always. Now go and live your lives without fear.” Santiago Cathedral, Bishop’s blessing at end of 500 mile walk to – El Camino de Compostela.
“You arrive where you started and know the place for the first time.” ~ T.S. Elliot
“One cannot always be a stranger to my homeland, make all my loved ones happy. I see no further than this. ~ Albert Camus
“Lord, we ain’t what we want to be; we ain’t what we ought to be; we ain’t what we gonna be; but, thank God, we ain’t what we was.” Prayer of a former slave preacher.