Celtic spirituality offers us some added disciplines to grow in our understanding of God’s faithfulness. For the ancient Celtic monks, pilgrimage was the art of leaving the comfortable and familiar of home to encounter God. Pilgrimage was often used as a way to share the gospel or to walk in the footsteps of a holy person. Many Jews and Christians participate in pilgrimage by traveling to Israel. Pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the pillars of Islam. We do not need to travel to the place where our faith originated to accomplish pilgrimage. When on pilgrimage, the exposure to creation reveals the Divine Presence through plants, animals, landscapes and natural designs. Each person we meet on the road may carry a divine message.
Pilgrimage begins with preparation. Where are we going and why? We prepare our hearts and minds by establishing an intent, a reason for becoming a pilgrim. Do we have a yearning that needs to be addressed? Is it to watch for God’s Spirit in the world? Or is it to learn about faithful saints, or spiritual leaders? Preparing helps us to set aside other aspects of our life so we can give our full attention to the Spirit that beckons us on the journey. The act of physical packing only the essentials of what we will need is part of pilgrimage. During your time of preparation, be sure to plan a couple of stops during your pilgrimage to visit a special place or take time for reflection.
I believe that we can take on a pilgrim’s heart each time we leave home to accomplish our daily activities. If we leave home expecting to encounter God, there is a good chance we will be open to noticing God every day. No matter what the challenges of our circumstances at work or at school, with our health or our relationships, we can be pilgrims learning from those who walked the path before us. The best part of pilgrimage is bringing home the boon. What did we find while we were away from the comfortable and familiar? Sharing what we learn with others deepens our understanding.
During this Lenten season, I encourage you to practice the discipline of pilgrimage, leaving home for the unknown might open the path for an encounter with the Divine.