Questions on Pilgrimage


To journey without being change is to be a nomad.

To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.

To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim. ~Mark Nepo

I’ve been reading the latest issue of Hungry Hearts, which is dedicated to the pilgrimage… to journeying. I am left with many, many thoughts.

There is something central to human existence in the journey… the pilgrimage… even the road trip (I’m reminded of the movie, Elizabethtown). Unfortunately, we have lost, to a great extent, the significance in the midst of our busy, money-making, car-using lives. We drive around here and there in our own little worlds, listening to our own music, imagining that no one can touch us. Traveling, unless done cross-country, is far less significant than it perhaps could be.

I have not done a pilgrimage to any traditional holy places on this planet… Ireland, Jerusalem, Southeast Asia…. although there are plans and dreams for me of a journey to the sacred places in Celtic history. I do, though, know what it is like to be on a journey, to be transformed by that journey, knowing that the destination of travel is not the purpose, but the act of being on the journey itself is the destination and arrival. It is in this understanding that we arrive… to a place of being that is always, yet not yet, arriving.

Sometimes a hike in the morning… the warming sun causing a steam on the grass, with the slight cool breeze twisting and turning it… the birds waking, singing their morning song, while the squirrels rustle in the leaves… knowing the place I long to stumble upon, the place where prayer happens and I can sit and listen. This is a pilgrimage. Sometimes, a mountain bike ride… not so many sounds other than my bike and my own grunts and gasping for air… the burn of my lungs and the pounding of my heart… vision blurred as I encounter the next thing in front of me… yet knowing that I long for the summit, where I can finally go downhill, making for a totally different ride… A pilgrimage.

My question is this: What is it about the journey, the pilgrimage, that touches the core of our being? Where does the journey meet you?

Pilgrims often journey to the ends of the earth in search of holy ground, only to find that they have never walked on anything else. ~Scott Russell Sanders – Staying Put

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