I have written on pilgrimage in the past, and hold this form of spiritual devotion in high regard. Pilgrimage is not a random journey, or mere holiday, it is rather a profound expression of the desire to be linked with the divine by visiting those places associated with the faith.
That said, I am not a typical pilgrim in several respects. Firstly, I am a “low church” Protestant. Secondly, I am disabled with limited mobility. As for the first of these it was of little consequence when visiting the Holy Land. There I walked (even if only briefly) in the footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles. I saw sights familiar to King David, and to the prophets. But I have also journeyed to Walsingham, and Canterbury. Here there was not the direct Biblical connection, nor one which in my own theological background “had significance.” It instead was an act of devotion which was appreciative of the faith of my distant brethren who had made these journeys of faith. I am thankful for the prayers that have been uttered there. I am appreciative of the arts and works of those who devoted themselves to these expressions of their love for God. It is this that is spiritually moving to me, and links me to “the communion of all the saints.”
I am now preparing to visit Santiago de Compostela. This is a pilgrimage with mixed intention. Whether this is the resting place of the Apostle James, or not, it is a place of prayer and worship. The faith of countless pilgrims has led them to overcome the desires of personal comfort, and to make long journeys of personal and spiritual discovery. It is this which I too will be doing.
As a non-Catholic, and as one who can only walk short distances, I will need to make different preparations. I will not travel the entire way of the pilgrim. I will not have a pilgrim’s passport. I will not be able to benefit from the spiritual and physical support at the way stops. I will however, be prayerful, reflective, and dedicated to finding the presence of God in the place.
My preparations need not therefore need to include in much in arranging stops at way stations. My eating and sleeping requirements will need only modest research. But my biggest preparation must be of the heart. It is the heart motive of worship and praise. It is also in heart that I hope to benefit from the company of others who are seeking to encounter God. I desire to celebrate the faith of those who I meet, and of those who have gone before me. May God bless me, and those I that journey along side me in our endeavors.