Travelling is something we do. Or at least would like to. The majority of people who travel do it for business. A good percentage does it for pleasure. But how many of us travel and after that attest that we have become a changed person? Pilgrimages do that. They are sure to make a difference in our life.
A pilgrimage according to the dictionary is a long journey specially made to a sacred place or a holy site. One who goes on a pilgrimage is called a pilgrim.
People from different religions go on pilgrimages. Muslims make it a lifetime goal for them to reach Mecca.
Pilgrimages for Christians have rich beginnings. For them, the first pilgrimage happened 2000 years ago. A man, who lived very, very far away went on a journey. He did so to fulfill His Father’s promise of salvation for mankind. He did not come with much fanfare. Not in glitter and kingly robes. Rather, he was born in a manger with shepherds and simple people to welcome him. He lived an extremely radical life that changed the course of history which affects us up to now. That man is Jesus.
If, finally, you have decided to go on a pilgrimage, the next question to ask is how do I prepare for one? Here are some suggestions:
1. Pray. A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place. You may literally be visiting a holy site, but in a pilgrimage, you will also visit a very sacred place, yourself. Ask God to touch you and speak to you.
2. Prepare for the work that you will leave behind. Whether it will be a long trip or a short one, you would not want to be distracted. Delegate all responsibilities so that you will not bring your work with you. While on the trip, resist the urge to call up home or workplace for updates. Do so only if you really have to.
3. Bring a bible and a notebook. In pilgrimages, a lot of time will be spent in prayer. Take seriously those times of prayer and journalize your experiences and thoughts. Keeping a diary helps you recall the good times and other learning experiences you can grow from. The bible will be your help. For example, you do not know what and how to pray. Turn to the psalms and pray this back to God.
4. Go to confession. A pilgrimage is a time of reconciling oneself with God. It may be helpful to receive this sacrament before or during the pilgrimage trip.
5.Establish friendships. Since you and your fellow pilgrims will be together for the next number of days, get to know them. Who knows, you may have gained a friend for life.
6. Travel light. Pilgrimages usually have hectic schedules. And you will be moving from one place to the other. Carrying heavy luggages will be a disadvantage for you.
7. Bring easy wardrobe. It is advantageous that you bring clothes that needs less ironing and will dry easily. Take along coordinates that match which you can repeat later on. Include in your wardrobe one or two sets of semi-formal attire just in case you will have a dressed up affair. At night, wash the clothes you have worn and let them dry overnight so that you don’t keep soiled clothes in your luggages. If you will be staying in a place for more than one night, you can take advantage of some time set aside for shopping or rest to wash your clothes. Wear very, very comfortable shoes. You will surely do a lot of walking and it will be very difficult if your feet are uncomfortable. If you plan to wear sneakers for the duration of the pilgrimage, it will be helpful to also bring comfortable leather shoes, just in case you have to be a little dressed up on some occasions.
8. Shop wisely. Before you leave, make a shopping list. Put them into categories. Whenever you visit a place, keep them in mind. If you will be giving “pasalubong” to a group, we suggest that you take advantage of the bargains. There are places that give discounts if you buy more than 10 or 20 pieces of an item. If you don’t need as much, tie up with a fellow traveler so you can both benefit from the discount. When about to purchase something, try to haggle with the storekeeper, sometimes they give discounts.
10. Taking pictures. Part of the fun is taking pictures. It will be a joy to recall the special moments during the pilgrimage. However, we suggest that picture taking will only take place after prayers. This is to give recognition to the place or church that you have visited. Obviously, we will not take pictures if there is a sign that says so or if another group is holding an event in that place.
11. Give thanks. Like with anything else, give what is due to people who have helped make the trip wonderful for you. First of all, give thanks to God for the experience. Thank the pilgrimage chaplain, the tour leader, and tour guide.
12. Attend the reunion. You had such a great time. It’s good to celebrate back home what you have gone through together. Show each other the pictures you have taken during the trip and have fun recalling the great experience you had together.
All of us must go on a pilgrimage. Taking time off to discover ourselves is a journey we ought to take. If we are not financially equipped to visit far away countries, we can still go on a pilgrimage. Go off to a place that you can afford. Take a retreat, you owe it to yourself.