To answer this question, before identifying the reasons why some Christians go on pilgrimage and the effects, the word pilgrimage and the factors of what makes a site a place of pilgrimage, needs to be defined. When one says the word pilgrimage, they should mean a journey that one endures to/around a place. A pilgrimage is a symbol in action in the sense that it is a representation of the journey of a Christian life from earth to heaven, which is why ‘a pilgrim people’ is the term occasionally used as a description of the Church. Pilgrimage can refer to a Christian’s journey through his or her life, from when they are born, to when they die.Furthermore, it can be a journey whereby as one grows spiritually, one understands more and more about themselves.
Pilgrimage can be described as a journey to a sacred place or shrine, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance. It is a spiritual tradition found in the history of nearly every major religion. A good example of a Christian pilgrimage is that made by the Magi, the Three Wise Men, as it contains some of the elements of pilgrimage.
They made a, most likely, arduous journey by donkey, attempting to experience a source of sacred awe. These two parts of any pilgrimage are essential, the journey and the intent of experiencing a source of awe. However, not every site is a place of pilgrimage. Many places described in the Bible, especially those visited by Jesus, are believed by Christians to be sacred.Therefore, a place of pilgrimage could simply be a place thought to be sacred and holy or mystical. An example of this is Lourdes, a very popular place of pilgrimage in France, which is thought to be a very holy place as is has a reputation of being able to heal the sick with no scientific explanation, hence the mysticism. A place of pilgrimage can simply be a place that helps pilgrims in their prayer and focus on whatever they are celebrating or whenever they pray to God. In general terms, a place of pilgrimage is a site thought by pilgrims and Christians to be holy, sacred or mystical and a site that involves some type of journey, whether it be physical or spiritual, and they must have the desire to get closer to God in going on this pilgrimage.
Places of pilgrimages such as, the Holy Land, Lourdes and Walsingham are all very popular and visited by thousands, if not millions of pilgrims every year. As I described a visit to the Holy Land in part a), I am going to focus on the other two places of pilgrimage, Lourdes and Walsingham, for the following part of my answer. The reasons why they are places of pilgrimage are as follows.
Lourdes, a town in the Pyrenees in Southern France, as aforementioned, is renowned for its miraculous acts and many go to Lourdes with the hope of being healed and cured of diseases and illness. Because only sixty-six cases of healing have been accepted by the Church as genuinely being miraculous since 1858, many go just with the hope that the experience itself will help them come to terms with their illness and accept it.Although many visit Lourdes for this physical healing, some may choose to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes for spiritual healing as they may feel they are drifting away from God and unable to focus when praying or truly understand what they are celebrating. Lourdes was declared a place of pilgrimage in 1862 after visions of the Virgin Mary were believed to be seen here. Walsingham on the other hand is a very different place of pilgrimage, but equally important, situated in Norfolk. Walsingham is not thought to have such healing powers as in Lourdes, but people visit it as Walsingham is the small town thought to have been the place that the Holy House of Nazareth was miraculously moved to or rather transported to.
It became a place of pilgrimage in 1897 after the shrine had been destroyed during the Reformation. Pilgrims visit Walsingham, now known as ‘England’s Nazareth’, as it is associated with the Incarnation of Jesus, the act of God becoming human, the doctrine that the Son of God was conceived in the womb of Mary and that Jesus is true God and true man. Visiting the Holy House of Nazareth, reminds pilgrims of the house that Jesus lived his life in, as a child and young man, for most of his life. Pilgrims visit it and pray in it as they believe in doing this, they are identifying with and realising the determining events and effects as Jesus got older, through childhood to adulthood and finally death.