Let’s wrap up our long discussion of shrines and pilgrimages. I will relay a family experience. My mother never switched to Catholicism when my siblings and I were baptized. But that didn’t prevent her from organizing pilgrimages for the parish, and later when a new pastor was less supportive, organizing them on her own for friends.
It was a part of my formative years in college to be a part of these journeys. Even though I was often half the age of the youngest non-family members present, it was a significant spiritual experience for me.
287. As the shrine is a place of prayer, a pilgrimage is a journey of prayer. Each stage of the pilgrim journey should be marked by prayer and the Word of God should be its light and its guide, its food and its sustenance.
I find that saying prayers like the rosary are similar in quality to watching out the window. These days, if the fam and I are going somewhere, I’m behind the wheel. When I go on retreat, I like to travel a fair distance–it adds the quality of pilgrimage to my observance.
The success of a pilgrimage, seen as an act of worship, and of the spiritual fruits deriving from it, require careful planning of the various celebrations that will take place during the pilgrimage, and adequate highlighting of their various phases.
The beginning of the pilgrimage should be an occasion of prayer, preferably in the parish church or in some other suitable church, with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist or a part of the Liturgy of the Hours (Cf. Book of Blessings, Ordo ad benedicendos peregrinos, cit., 407), or with a special blessing for pilgrims(Cf. ibid., 409-419).
I remember the parish priest blessing the bus departures on my mom’s trips.
The final stage of the pilgrimage should be characterized by intense prayer. It should preferably, be travelled on foot in processional form, and interspersed with prayer, hymns and pauses at the shrines marking the rout to the sanctuary.
The reception of the pilgrims could be a suitable moment for a “threshold liturgy”, placing the pilgrims and the keepers of the shrine in a perfect context of faith; where possible, the latter should join with the pilgrims in the final phase of the pilgrim journey.
Good ideas above. These I do not remember. Prayer was personal and individualized, and less intense. We participated in the prayers of the sites, certainly.
The time spent in the sanctuary constitutes the most important part of the pilgrimage and should be marked by a commitment to conversion, ratified by reception of the Sacrament of Penance; by private prayer of thanksgiving, supplication, or of intercession, in accordance with the nature of the shrine or the objectives of the pilgrimage; by celebration of the Holy Eucharist, which is the climax of the pilgrimage (Cf. DPPL 265-273).
The Church counsels a deep awareness of prayer. This seems to pick up on the theme offered in DPPL 286g, to seek the companionship of the Lord.
The conclusion of the pilgrimage should be marked by a moment of prayer, either in the shrine itself or at the church from which the pilgrimage departed (Cf. Book of Blessings, Ordo benedictionis peregrinorum ante vel post reditum, cit., 420-430.). The pilgrims should give thanks to God for the gift of the pilgrimage and ask the Lord for his assistance in living out the Christian vocation more generously when they return to their homes.
Souvenirs are inevitably a part of the experience. One might wonder what sorts of things were pressed into Jesus’ hands as he traveled from place to place. Sometimes the memory of the experience is superior to most material things one would collect.
From antiquity, pilgrims have always brought home souvenirs of their pilgrimage, in recollection of the shrine that they had visited. Care should be taken to ensure that object, images, and books available in shrines transmit authentically the spirit of the shrine. Care should also be taken to ensure that shops or stalls are not set up within the sacred space of the sanctuary, and that even the appearance of commerce be excluded.
The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.