Pilgrimage

Christians believe that throughout their own life they are following in the footsteps of Jesus, since His life is the example by which they should live. Jesus’ example included times of prayer and fasting, caring for the poor and sick, and living by the principles of God’s Kingdom, here on earth. By committing themselves to the church and through following its practices, Christians demonstrate their willingness to follow this example, bearing witness to the faith within their family and the wider community.

However, there is also the concept of ‘walking in the shoes’ of the founder in a literal sense, and many Christians view the idea of going to Israel where Jesus lived, seeing the sights he saw, and feeling the history of the country where he grew up, taught, died and was raised from death, to be an educationally and spiritually uplifting experience. Participating in such a pilgrimage with other pilgrims, often helps a person to better understand their faith and helps them in their own spiritual journey.

Today, the main places of Christian pilgrimage include Jerusalem, Galilee and Bethlehem in the Holy Land, Rome in Italy, Lourdes in France, Santiago de Compostella in Spain, Knock in Ireland, and Walsingham and Canterbury in England. In the days before cars, planes and other comfortable transport, a person of faith would have to walk or go by horse, and people who have done long pilgrimages to Santiago by foot, suggest that it is a wonderfully uplifting and spiritually worthwhile effort to walk the hundreds of kilometres necessary to gain the ‘compostella’ or certificate which confirms that the pilgrimage is completed.

Christians of some denominations, particularly Catholics, believe also that pilgrimages to historical places of interest, such as the Vatican in Italy in order to see the Pope, to be especially beneficial and a sign of devotion to the faith. Alongside this, Catholics also believe that God intervenes on behalf of his people through certain saints in order to be able not only to heal spiritual wounds that pilgrimage can cure, but also physical wounds and hurts. At Lourdes in France, for instance, many thousands of disabled people visit the grottos hoping to experience healing.

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