How to Pilgrimage From Home
Linda Oppelt
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How to Pilgrimage From Home

By Deacon Patrick Jones

Photo courtesy of Deacon Patrick Jones

Day two of my pilgrimage pulls back its covers. Sky, mountains, forest, and trail emerge from early morning’s deep purple gloaming to bathe in streams of gold. Electric blue light lingers in the glen as I head out my own door in the Colorado mountains for the next day of pilgrimage prayer on the Camino de Santiago France, the most popular route of the famous pilgrimage  also known as the Way of St. James.

How is it I pilgrimage in the Pyrenees on my way to Santiago de Compostela, Spain while on Colorado trails out my front door? Catholic math. Much as the Church makes allowances for Eucharistic processions — which are presumed to be walked — elderly, disabled, pregnant, and others with difficulty beyond the typical corporal discipline of three hours praying and walking outdoors may take alternate transportation between altars, or even remain in church while praying throughout the procession. So too, there are various ways to pilgrimage to accommodate different needs and capacities.

Anyone can make a pilgrimage. If you feel called to pilgrimage the Way of St. James, St. Teresa, Via Francigena, or any other pilgrimage that is out of reach due to physical, financial, or time limitations, the following pick list gives some ideas of how you might pilgrimage afar within your capacity (modify as needed for your situation).

  • Pray a mystery of the rosary per mile of the pilgrimage route and track your progress each day.
  • Prayerfully walk or run the pilgrimage mileage, praying the rosary as you do (a pocket or finger rosary is great for this!)
  • Get a guide book with photos and information and track your progress.
  • Become a patron for a pilgrim and prayerfully join them from afar.

Another option that opens up pilgrimages for families and others, including those with young children, is to make shorter, local pilgrimages to area shrines, chapels, or parishes. Options here are limited compared to Europe, where many shrines and chapels are within walking distance of most anywhere, even if pregnant or with young children. In the United States, we lack walking infrastructure and so we drive to such places, which is not the ideal way to pilgrimage. A pilgrimage emphasizes corporal discipline and thus human-powered locomotion. In that spirit, Chimayo does have a walking pilgrimage on Good Friday, and numerous other “event” pilgrimages are held around the United States, with road closures and safety in numbers ... so long as you want to pilgrimage with hundreds of your closest friends. Perhaps we can create pilgrimage routes here in the U.S., particularly in our diocese and Colorado, that allow more traditional human-powered pilgrimage by foot, with camping and hosteling along the way, the “camino”.

People often wonder: what intentions should I pray for when I pilgrimage? Three general answers, in any combination, make for excellent pilgrimage intentions:

  • Specific intentions for healing of self or loved one, discernment, or life circumstance for self or loved one;
  • Prayer intentions of family and friends;
  • Offer to the Blessed Virgin Mary any and all graces granted by the pilgrimage, to dispense as her motherly love and wisdom see fit.

However you are able to pilgrimage, may your prayerful journey deepen your love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, his and our mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and all the holy men and women who preceeded us; for we are all pilgrims in this life, our home but a poor inn at the side of the road, journeying toward heaven, a journey we can never complete on our  own.

Now 45 days and 350 km in, I am amazed how much I feel on pilgrimage yet without the high cost to my brain or family that we experienced on previous pilgrimage attempts I’ve made toward Chimayo, New Mexico, or the Stations of the Cross in San Luis. Despite my troughs of brain capacity, necessitating weeks of not making it out on the trail, I am able to  recover at home, unlike anywhere else. And, like those failed attempts, one gift every pilgrimage offers is the reality that we are each powerless to reach heaven, our ultimate pilgrimage destination. I neither made myself nor can save myself. Only by Christ’s saving grace and my humble repentance and acceptance of him will I complete my final pilgrimage past Heaven’s Gate. 

Deacon Patrick Jones directs the diocesan Traumatic Brain Injury Ministry.

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