One More Step: Famous Christian PilgrimagesBy
Sometimes, life can be pretty unfair whether you’ve been passed over for a promotion for work, the kids just aren’t behaving themselves and even though you’ve run every other day this week somehow you’ve still gained three pounds! You know what, it’s ok if you need to take some time out for yourself, have ten minutes where you don’t need to do anything else except breathe and make yourself a soothing cup of tea. We often think that the first line of defense against stress, worry and frustration is to eat better, get lots of sleep and try to exercise more frequently and while these are all fantastic ideas might there be a more adventurous solution?
While we’re not saying that you should embark on a three month Eat, Pray, Love style quest for enlightenment travel does tend to broaden our minds and open our hearts. So if you’re struggling with a big decision or emotional issue, take a trip even if it’s just to a different city for a couple of days. Having said that you could always save up for a few months, take on a couple more shifts at work or travel with friends to help split up the cost. Then visit some of the most inspiring, enlightening Christian pilgrimage sites on earth! Not only have thousands of people achieved real inner peace, come to life changing decisions and felt a renewed sense of faith here but have also been transfixed by the sheer beauty and quiet dignity of sacred spaces.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, have been sad and melancholy for a while or are struggling with feeling fulfilled at work it may be better to take some annual leave, pack your passport and non-judgmental attitude and visit some of the most spiritual places on earth. Don’t worry, though, wherever you choose to go God will be with you as you find your renewed faith.
Believe it or not, the Roman Catholic church has recorded sixty-six separate miracles at Lourdes, where shrines were built in homage to the mysterious figure that appeared over 150 years ago. It was a day just like any other, when 14-year-old servant girl Bernadette Soubirous stopped on her way to the market and saw a woman standing over her. On it’s own this wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary, but what made this moment unique was the fact the woman was floating above her, surround by a halo of radiant light and would appear to the young girl over seventeen times, changing the course of Bernadette’s young life forever. Today, millions of people flock to this small French town to pay homage to the rocks where the Lady Of Lourdes first appeared while Bernadette is now one of France’s most beloved saints.
Christian pilgrims stand quietly in line, waiting for their chance to touch the rocks, leaving candles, flowers and other offerings as well as drinking the water from a nearby spring that’s said to be infused with healing properties. Pilgrimages to Lourdes usually began at Easter, going all the way through to October as Christians come to sing hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Torchlight processions, extended services and group prayer circles are common as are songs dedicated to Massabielle rocks. In the niche where the vision first appeared stands a statue of the Virgin Mary, dressed in white as she was said to have been clothed originally. Her hands clasped in eternal prayer she looks towards heaven.
Camino de Santiago, Spain
Another famous Christian pilgrimage site is the tomb of the apostle St James in Spain’s Santiago de Compostela. It’s a beautiful city, so much so that it appears on Unesco’s World Heritage register as well as being one of the major Christian pilgrimages that are still accessible. Having said that it starts near the French border and ends at the Atlantic coast so it’s certainly not an activity you can accomplish in an afternoon. Most people tend to either drive, walk or cycle the 783 kilometers turning the pilgrimage into the focal point of a vacation in Spain. The full journey, if you choose to walk it, will take around a month but there are plenty of inns, hotels, and albergues, or pilgrim hostels that you can stay in. Be aware, that many of these pilgrim hostels will be Spanish speaking, you may need help getting a prayer card, and you’ll require special credentials, or a pilgrim passport to prove you’re undertaking the great walk to the Camino.
Even the smallest child knows the story of the nativity and how Mary, Joseph and their unborn baby had to travel from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to be counted for the upcoming census. However, on the way Mary went into labor, and so Jesus, the first Christian and Son Of God was born in a lowly stable instead of an inn. Despite a turbulent history, and the constant threat of low-level violence between Palestinians and Israelis many Christians still feel the need to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to see the biblical birthplace of the man they revere. One of the most popular sites is Bethlehem’s Church Of The Nativity, where in a small underground grotto, a silver shining star marks the site near where Jesus was said to have been born. Close by also lies the Manger Square, surrounded by several other churches of great significance.
For Christians, a visit to Jerusalem is not complete without paying a visit to the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, the site where Jesus is buried after supposedly ‘dying’ on the cross only to roll the stone away from his own tomb three days later. Those looking to God for strength, love and support often like to make the trek to the Mount Of Olives where it’s believed Jesus prayed on the night that Judas betrayed him. However, perhaps the most sacred site are the cracked, stone steps of the Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus walked to the cross and one that countless people have taken to better understand what it means to sacrifice everything for love.