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Pilgrimage is the name given to a spiritual journey. There is more depth to a physical journey. It is about what it means spiritually to the individual. It is an emotional and spiritual journey. It is a journey from the heart showing love for God. The definition of true is ‘loyal’ so a true pilgrimage is a journey you take to show loyalty to God. To become a pilgrim, the person must leave their home and undertake a sacred journey, which may confirm and strengthen their personal beliefs in their religion. People can go on this journey alone or in a community. Many places in the world are very exceptional for Christians. Some are places where Jesus lived, such as Nazareth. Other places are special because a holy person is buried there. Many Christians go on their pilgrimages to Lourdes and Rome. People go on journeys to these special, religious places to order their lives in terms of what is good, beautiful and true.
“Christianity is a journey into Christ a journey that mirrors every Christian mystery through life. As a Christian grows and changes, so he or she tries to move nearer to Christ. A believer’s ultimate hope is to be completely at one with him in eternity, when on the journey, Christians may use the physical act of pilgrimage to help them to focus on the need for spiritual nourishment.”
People go to these places of worship as here they believe they can fulfil their beliefs, and show their devotion to their religion. They are making a holy journey. We call those who go on these special journeys ‘pilgrims’. They do not have to do this, there is nothing in the Bible which tells Christians that they must make pilgrimages. It is their decision made freely. Many people regard Lourdes, as a place of miracles and of wonderful and unexplainable events. A young girl called Bernadette had a vision of the Virgin Mary countless times and in these visions, Bernadette, was told how to find a natural spring. Many Christians go as they are ill and hope to be cured. But others go for the same reasons that they go to church. Another reason to go on a pilgrimage is to feel some of the holiness of the place and become closer to God.
By becoming closer to God, we can feel like better Christians and this should help us to become better Christians and do as God intended us. People also go on pilgrimage to seek God’s forgiveness for the sins that they have committed. Some people go to ask and receive God’s help, like people who have an illness or are disabled in some way, may ask for a cure to heal them. People can also ask to be healed spiritually, as coming to their pilgrimage centre may make them realise that they have not been leading a good Christian life and it may make them change into good Christians. Rome is another main pilgrimage centres for millions of Catholics. In Rome, there are 7 pilgrim churches founded when the Roman Empire became Christian. People have been coming to Rome on a pilgrimage for the past 1600 years.
The Church of St. Peter was built on top of the tomb of St. Peter who was the leader of the 12 apostles and the first ever Pope. St Paul’s church was built on top of the tomb of St. Paul, the great Christian missionary, who wrote most of the epistles in the New Testament. Rome is the home of the Pope and the Vatican is the headquarters of the Catholic Church. A pilgrimage to Rome is very special as it is the home of the Roman Catholic Church. Lourdes is a Pilgrimage centre which is much more recent, but it still receives over 2 million pilgrims a year. Water is a very special part of Lourdes a here there are the baths where you are fully immersed in Holy Water. You feel as if you are being cleansed of your sins, like a believer’s baptism as you are fully immersed in water like Jesus was fully immersed in the water of the river in Jordan when he was baptised by John the Baptist.
Many Christians believe that it is very important to go on a pilgrimage as it helps them develop into better Christians. As they go to the special, religious centres they become closer to God and begin to understand the religion more. By praying to God they become much closer, and their beliefs about the religion are greatly strengthened. The pilgrimage centres really have a great affect on the person spiritually. By getting away from their normal lives Christians who go on pilgrimages to Lourdes or Rome are filled with a special feeling of belonging when they go to a pilgrimage centre.
At these special places Christians feel much closer to God as they are at special places where religious events have occurred in the past. Some people go on pilgrimages as groups, where they can help others who are less fortunate than themselves. Certain groups take children who aren’t so fortunate on pilgrimages to places like Lourdes and let them become closer to God. By doing this they are helping Jesus, as Jesus said “anything you do to your neighbour you do unto me”. People who may have turned away from the religion could also have their spirits renewed and change as a person to being a good Christian. Some people also feel that they can see their vocation when they come to a pilgrimage centre, which shows the huge affect that pilgrimage centres have on people.
When people come on pilgrimages they leave homes behind and decide to forget all comforts and put God first. They are showing by going to these pilgrimage centres, their devotion to God and that their main aim in life is to be a good Christian rather than make money and have fun. They show that their main aim is on God and making God happy.
Christians also come to Lourdes and Rome to ask questions, to ask questions about Christianity and how they can become a better Christian and make God happy. Christians also enjoy coming together and going on pilgrimages as then they are surrounded by many people who are like them, all on a journey to strengthen their religious beliefs and become better Christians.
Christians also come to pilgrimage centres as they wish to ask God for his forgiveness for all there sins, and by coming on a long journey to a pilgrimage centre they can show to God that they truly are sorry for their sins and that they want to be better Christians. They can also show that God is most important to them as they are coming on a journey to show their devotion to him.
The spring St. Bernadette had found was holy and had great healing powers. Now many people visit Lourdes and drink or bathe in the holy water. Many people have miraculously been cured of illness after visiting Lourdes. In Lourdes there have been many specialised things made to accommodate people suffering illness or those who have disability. The people who a go there to pray for themselves and to pray for others. Some pilgrims, who go there, volunteer their time when they are not praying to people who are less able than them.
I have been to Lourdes myself and when I was there the feeling of Holiness was unbelievable. Just being there made me feel as If I was cleansed of all my sins, and I truly felt closer to God and being their strengthened my passion towards my religious beliefs.
After being to Lourdes myself I feel that the pilgrimage centre has become too commercialised. So many people are trying to make money out of the religiously spectacular area it has taken some of the special feeling away from visiting Lourdes. The point of going on a pilgrimage is to get away from our normal lives where all we think about is work and money and spend time concentrating on God and putting our religion first.
By setting up shops around the area we are tempted to purchase items, which takes away the precious feelings of visiting Lourdes. The area around Lourdes is meant to be tranquil and peaceful and reflect the image of Christianity, but having loads of shops around the area provokes the town to turn into a busy, messy area where crime can increase and there is a lot of disrespect for the holiness of the pilgrimage centre.
However, if a person does visit such a spiritually healing place like Lourdes naturally they would like to be able to take home with them a souvenir to remind them of their time in the area which changed them so much into a better Christian. Many people purchase items which are very special and can be used as aids to prayer, which makes them better Christians as this would bring them closer to God.
If these special items do bring them closer to God then they are sacred items and are very precious. When I went to Lourdes I did purchase special items from shops in the area which I have used as aids to prayer and have in my house looking over me, protecting me. But I still feel that the area around Lourdes has become to commercialised as there are so many shops and some of the items sold in the shops are not very sacred and can bring down the preciousness of Mary and Jesus as they are not very respectful.