What Is Pilgrimage?

What is pilgrimage? 

I don’t know about where you’re from, but in my part of the world, almost no one goes on pilgrimage. A voice booming from the sky is about as likely.

It’s like pilgrimage is a ritual from another time and place—the Middle Ages. Maybe something Muslims or Hindus do. Occasionally, a special Holy Land pilgrimage done as part of a church group … a guided tour through holy things to see and touch the setting in which Jesus walked.

In any case, it’s not something ordinary people living in the suburbs do as a regular thing. We go on vacations. Visit family. Maybe go to the amusement park or camping.

Regardless, we’re always busy, always driving somewhere. 

And generally, Americans don’t walk.

So ... What Is Pilgrimage?

What is pilgrimage? I think there are almost as many answers as there are people. 

For some, if you follow the route of a pilgrimage, you’re on pilgrimage. Simple. That's what pilgrimage is.

But there’s also a sense in which pilgrimage is a journey with meaning. 

For growth … for hearing the voice of God … to make atonement … to come to terms with a death … a meditative walk … a trip to a sacred place … what the Vatican says it is … a religious duty … a walk through history … a way to understand yourself or the world or some complicated question.


Something you do alone or with other pilgrims.

A journey for which the inner preparation is as important as the outer preparation.

A pilgrimage is often in some unfamiliar place, but it’s more than just seeing the sights. More than just the route.

"Faith is not the endless clinging to a shrine but
an endless pilgrimage of the heart."

~Abraham Joshua Heschel

Pilgrimage is meant to open you up or change you. It serves to focus your intent as you shed the things you don’t need.

As the body works and overcomes, the spirit circles in, closer to the place where questions become answers or at least questions you’re okay living with.

We encounter those other people who are also on a journey, also searching. They may have different questions, different intentions, but there you all are—the same quest matters to you.

There are short pilgrimages and long ones—a walking meditation toward grace and understanding. 

Everyday Pilgrimage

What is pilgrimage?

It isn’t something for some other time and place, some other religion. It’s something almost anyone can do in some form—even if they don't walk it.

Pilgrimage is sacred travel, meaningful travel, a journey with intention. But it’s also an everyday thing.

Struggle is a pilgrimage. So is joy. A mindful walk with the dog in a quiet place can be an everyday pilgrimage, a chance to become still and reset. To be fully present.

And although taking those longer journeys—a few days, a few weeks, a few months—can be deeply meaningful and worth making time for, let’s not forget…

Pilgrimage is for everyone with the heart for it.

Pilgrimage is for you.

What will your special journey be?

Inspiration for the journey ...

Rocamadour looks a lot like Gondor & even has a legendary sword, Durendal. Its medieval Chemin de Croix winds upward off a longer path connected to Les Eyzies or a branch of the Camino...

American Cemeteries in France: 

Normandy’s WWII cemetery is rightly famous. But there are many American cemeteries in France & more pilgrimage sites you (probably) didn’t know about!