The life of a Christian is a journey, a process of constant movement and change towards the presence of God. From the earliest times Christians have journeyed to certain special places which have been associated with Our Lord, Mary, the Mother of God, or with the Saints. We travel to holy places to renew, nourish and develop our experience of faith. Each pilgrimage we undertake is a symbol of the larger pilgrimage we are making through life: we are all travelling home to God.
The earliest places of pilgrimage were of course in the Holy Land itself and all Christians are encouraged, if their circumstances allow it, to make a visit to the Holy Places of Israel and Palestine.
Other great centres of pilgrimage include the Eternal City of Rome, Mount Athos and the holy places of the Orthodox world. In Western Europe we have those places associated with appearances of the Blessed Virgin – Lourdes, Fatima, and many others associated with the Saints such as Assisi and Ars.
The grounds of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk
In the British Isles before the reformation there were many such places. Of these, a few remain, having been restored largely as a result of the Catholic Revival within the Anglican Church which began in the Nineteenth Century with the Oxford Movement.
Which has a large Anglican Shrine and attracts many thousands of pilgrims in the course of the year – www.walsingham.org.uk.
Even closer to home is Glastonbury which, on the site of its ruined Abbey, hosts an annual pilgrimage toward the end of June -www.glastonburypilgrimage.com.
In Wales, St David’s continues to attract pilgrims to the shrine of our national Patron Saint.Penrhys (during May) in the Rhondda Valley andLlanthony (normally the last Saturday in August -www.fatherignatius.com) in the Black Mountains both hold annual pilgrimages in honour of Our Lady.