Explain why Christians go on pilgrimage and the benefits they receive from going

The dictionary definition of pilgrimage is, ‘A journey made by a religious devotee to a sacred place as an act of religious commitment.’ Many different religions and cultures go on pilgrimage. A majority of the world’s major religions go on pilgrimage. So why do these people go on pilgrimages?

Well basically, as the definition states, people show their devotion to their faith. They are showing how much their faith means to them and they are proving it.

Through showing their devotion they get satisfaction from knowing that they have accepted God into their life and God has accepted them into his community.

People also go on pilgrimage as a sort of penance so that they can be forgiven. Some pilgrimages can be long and arduous journeys and they were exactly this before the time of cars and airplanes. Many go to pilgrimage to get help from God, if they are going through a tough time in their life and need the strength of God to help them through this crisis.

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Or because of this crisis, they have lost their faith; they can renew their belief and strengthen it.

Thanks-giving is a good reason why people go on pilgrimage. If they have had something good happen to them or they just simply want to say thanks for all they have, they go to holy places to say thank-you.

The reason why people go to places of pilgrimage is actually to be closer to God, God’s presence is probably very prominent there and people go there to be within it.

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It may also be the presence of someone else holy, for example, Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, or Lourdes. In Lourdes, Our Lady the Immaculate Conception appeared there. People follow her orders to go to Lourdes.

Prayer is a special part of pilgrimage, the actual concept of being on pilgrimage is so that you can be under the presence of God or someone holy, this can make worship and prayer much stronger and more special. The significance of this is that you can’t get the same contented feeling of praying somewhere holy when you are at home. Praying while on pilgrimage means that you have overcome any obstructions of distance or any other problems so that you can be within the presence of a holy person to pray to them through what you might call a ‘direct line’.

Being on pilgrimage isn’t all about undergoing hardships and problems, it can also be like a holiday where you can relax and enjoy the blissful atmosphere where you encounter people who are joyous in the name of God. While on pilgrimage you are away from the problems and stresses of every day life. You are able to concentrate fully on the worship of God. Also another great thing about pilgrimage is places like Lourdes where a person is able to enjoy the beauty of the place and of God’s creation.

One of the most important incentives for going to pilgrimage, in my opinion, is for spiritual healing. The reason for this is that over time, you become disheartened by the things you see in every day life and you probably think, ‘Is there really a God?’ Because of this, attending Lourdes give you a new lease of life and your faith in God is renewed.

Healing is one major reason why people come to Lourdes. Our Lady told Bernadette that the water from the spring has special healing powers. Because of this, many incurably sick and disabled people are taken to Lourdes in the hope of healing. This has been proven as many people have been miraculously cured of their illnesses at Lourdes.

As it happens, Lourdes is one of the places that I have been studying. The reason why Lourdes is such a holy place and a beacon for pilgrims is that a special event happened in the 1800s. Bernadette was a young peasant girl who was from a poor family in France. At the age of 14, Bernadette saw a strange figure in front of her. On further cross-examination the figure revealed to the young girl, Bernadette, that she was the Immaculate Conception, Mary. Over time, Bernadette had more visions of The Virgin Mary and was a regular basis.

Mary told Bernadette several things:

The spring water around the Grotto was blessed and that people should come to bathe in it. This water is said to be very holy and has the power of healing within it.

People should come to the area and come in procession, i.e. hold processions around the grotto.

The people should build a chapel and worship in the name of God in it.

Bernadette was also told three secrets about existence and was made to promise not to tell anyone. To this day they have still not been told.

Since this time Lourdes has become a very popular place of pilgrimage and sanctity where people come to pray and worship. They follow Mary’s orders by going to Lourdes in worship. They remember what she told them so that they remember that God is always there for them.

One way they remember God is to go in procession as Mary said. The Blessed Sacrament Procession as it is known is held every day in response to Our Lady’s request. It is usually held in the afternoon where the Blessed Sacrament is carried from the Grotto, where Mary appeared, along the Esplanade to the front of the Rosary Basilica. Here everyone, especially those who are sick or disabled are blessed. As usual with processions, there are many people who take part in it, the procession is often decorated with colourful banners and sing of hymns. People also pray along the procession.

Another form of going in procession is a Torchlight Procession. This procession is held at night time, as with the daytime procession, many people take part in it. The one difference between this and the daytime procession is that judging by the name, everyone carries a candle as they process through the Domaine area. The people also sing, ‘Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria’, this song is loud enough to be heard all over Lourdes. The point of this is to show a slow moving, holy river of light with the sound of God ringing out from it.

As you can see, candles play an important part in pilgrimage to Lourdes. Candles represent the light of Mary’s son Jesus, and because of this, there are always candles burning in and around the Grotto where Mary appeared. People light candles to show some peace in the Grotto so that they can take time to reflect on their lives, families and God. Candles are also a useful tool to help us pray for others.

Because not everyone is able to come to Lourdes for many reasons people ask to be remembered by their friends in their prayers. There is also a tradition called Petitions, this is fro people who are unable to go to Lourdes so they write a letter to Our Lady. It is like spiritually going there without being there physically.

These petitions are collected in a metal box in the Grotto and burned unopened. Pilgrims who are physically present there ask for Our Lady’s help with not only themselves but with those whose petitions they carry.

As I mentioned before, pilgrimage not only involves thanks giving or help, it also involves penance. Lourdes is no exception to this, many people repent their sins at Lourdes and a way of penance (perhaps a self inflicted punishment) is to go along the Way of the Cross.

The Way of the Cross is just like the convention Stations of the Cross in church. The only difference is that it is on a much larger scale, there are still 12 stations but there is a long journey involved. The Way of the Cross is an outdoor journey where you go up one side of a steep hill and down the other. The route is about a mile long and takes around an hour to complete. Along the route you will be able to see the stations which are on quite a large scale, roughly life-size. Completing this journey is not an easy task but it helps to remind you of the problems Jesus had on His journey. This is also a form of penance. As further penance, many people often walk along the Way of the Cross barefoot, just as Christ did on His journey.

This is not the only Way of the Cross as many ill and disabled people would not be able to go along the upper stations. The lower stations are set into stone walls and the journey is a pleasant one along the river and not too far from the Grotto.

There is also a chapel nearby to the Grotto; this was built on instruction of Our Lady who asked people to worship there. This small chapel sees many visitors following Mary’s orders to pray and worship in the chapel.

One of the most important things to do at Lourdes is to bathe in the water. In accordance to Our Lady’s wishes, many hundreds of people bathe in the spring, Mary told Bernadette that the spring had special healing powers and that people should drink from the spring and bathe in the water from it.

The baths are specially made so that all people can bathe in it, from the completely healthy to those who are disabled. The reason for this is so that people can have the chance of having miracles performed on the by the holy contents of the water. Physical healing isn’t the only reason why people bathe in the spring water. People hope to wash away their sins and to have spiritual healing.

There are also taps made not far from the Grotto. These taps run water from the spring so that pilgrims may drink from it. People drink from the spring water just as Our Lady instructed pilgrims to do. Pilgrims also take home the water to families as a souvenir.

There are many reasons why a person should go on pilgrimage and what is there for them. The things that we know are that a person must go out of their way to go to places like Lourdes. We also know why they go and what they do at pilgrimage. After so much hard work and penance, you may ask, ‘What did they get out of it?’

To answer this question I have many replies which show the benefits of going on a pilgrimage.

The first reason would be physical replenishment. The idea of relaxation and a holiday is sewn into pilgrimage so that it is not just a holy journey but a holiday where people are able to enjoy themselves and be completely relaxed. There is also no stress on the holiday which helps with mental rejuvenation. The enjoyment of a holiday atmosphere means that people are happy and calm. Another attraction is the beauty of the place, Lourdes is in a forest area with a nearby river and spring, this natural setting is a beautiful sight for people.

There is also the meeting of other people which is involved in the holiday side of pilgrimage. While on pilgrimage, you are able to meet other people who share your beliefs and faith. This means that you can travel as a group which is a fun and enjoyable thing to do. When you are with people who are just like you, you are able to enjoy yourself with them.

Just like a normal holiday, there are souvenirs. The souvenirs from Lourdes are mainly religious items but the main one is the holy spring water. This is the water which is said to be blessed. Pilgrims go to the taps and usually fill home a small bottle as a souvenir of their journey to Lourdes. Some others also take home large bottles so that others who have not been able to come will be able to use the water.

Pilgrimage also gives you a sense of peace which is only obtainable from God. When you are at home, at work or even taking it easy, you are never completely at peace, there is always something which is incomplete. That thing is your faith, going to pilgrimage assures you that there is a God so that you are contented with yourself.

Because many pilgrims travel to Lourdes and other places of pilgrimages to repent their sins, many of them obtain forgiveness while at Lourdes. As I described before, people go through penances such as walking the Way of the Cross barefoot. Because of this many are granted forgiveness from God for this. This is a very important item to get from a pilgrimage.

A pilgrim almost always gets one thing out of pilgrimage, this is increased faith. A person can learn more about their religious beliefs by going to pilgrimage. They also feel that their faith has increased. When a person is not sure about their faith, going to pilgrimage enlightens them.

Lourdes is famous for the reason that the power of the Holy spring water has very special healing powers. This is one of the things which attract pilgrims to Lourdes, many people who are sick or unwell come to Lourdes in hope of being cured. People get physical healing from bathing in the water and taking part in services. Although a miracle like curing the incurable seems impossible, it does happen. Several miracles have been performed which cannot be explained.

The most important benefit that I think pilgrims get from pilgrimage to Lourdes or any place of pilgrimage is spiritual renewal. The definition of spiritual is, ‘To do with sacred or religious things’. The definition for renewal is, ‘Reviving, reinforcing, strengthening.’ Therefore the meaning must be, ‘Reviving your religious beliefs’.

Overall, I believe Lourdes is a place of worship and sanctity, in fact any place of pilgrimage is sacred. There are many reasons to go to pilgrimage but there are even more benefits from going.


Question 2: ‘It would be better for Christianity if the money spent on building and maintaining special places of worship was spent on alleviating poverty instead.’

Do you agree? Give reasons for your answer, showing that you have considered more than one point of view.

I would say that I have to agree to a certain extent. I place this argument on the point that human life is far more valuable than the maintenance of a building.

Though it is true that God should be recognised as a powerful and awesome figure. We as his people should worship him in nothing less than the best. These statements can be said as true. We should also reflect his greatness in the buildings we build for his worship. We should make beautiful buildings to reflect in the image of God. God is so great so we must make the house of worship for him great. It must remind us of his power, compassion and love for us.

Prayer and worship are about love and respect. These can be seen in your actions towards God and the things you do for him. If you have a poorly made building where there is no beauty, no grace, then there is nothing to remind us of God’s presence. In a church, vibrant figures and images play a major part in prayer. If you look at an image of Jesus or a symbol of God, then you have something to help you pray. This is not possible without all the things such as stained-glass wind, crucifixes and pictures.

The stronger argument would be that I agree that a majority of the money used for church buildings should be used to help the needy. When I say to a certain extent, I mean that a church building should be a simple one where the community can gather and worship together. I don’t mean to say that there should be no church buildings.

As I said before is that people are more important than buildings, I think this is a very good point as human beings make existence what it is. Church buildings have nothing to do with religion, I believe that the people inside it and God make it what it is.

If you picture all those poor people, all the starving children and all those who need our help you will be able to see that human life exceeds the value of buildings and treasures and is much more important.

These people who you are just ‘walking past without a second look’ have feelings, they are not like inanimate buildings which can cry or hurt or even laugh with joy.

The meaning of ‘church’ is not a building but it means a community of people who come together to worship God. So whether or not there is a good church doesn’t depend on the image of it but the hearts of the people within it.

If you think back, what about the early Christians, there were no large expensive churches, they met in small halls or even out in the open.

Jesus taught that each person must help our fellow human being. He said this by saying, ‘When you feed the hungry, you feed me. When you clothe the naked, you clothe me. And when you visit those in prison, you visit me. This was in the parable of the sheep. This parable is basically explaining to us that every human being has his or her duty to look after their fellow man, and when they do that, they are looking after Jesus. This is worship in itself, worship in church means nothing if there are needy people in the world, and as long as this is the case, the only vessel of the Church is each and every person’s heart.

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 Explain why Christians go on pilgrimage and the benefits they receive from going. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/explain-christians-go-pilgrimage-benefits-receive-going-new-essay

 Explain why Christians go on pilgrimage and the benefits they receive from going

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