Post-Pilgrimage Reflections

I have made several spiritual journeys in my life, some of these have been internal and personal, others have been physical.  These physical pilgrimages, were not mere holidays for me, but meaningful attempts to come closer to God.  As I look back on these, I have come up with a few post-pilgrimage reflections and subsequent tips.

First, don’t expect all your fellow “pilgrims” to be on the same journey as you.  Yes, they may physically walking the same path, but their intentions may not be the exact same as yours.  Despite these differences still treat them as fellow travelers and support them in their journey.  This may be that they are devoutly seeking the divine.  It may be that they are seeking a non-conventional (religious) spiritual experience. Some may be the curious trying to see or feel what it is all about.  While yet others, may be their for the sights (tourists, etc.).  What ever their motivation, their journey is their own.

Secondly, with the first point established, expect the “unexpected.”  For those with different religious, spiritual, or non-religious intentions, you will meet with “less than pious” acts by your fellows.  It is not unheard of for there to be swearing or irreverent humour.  I have come across drunkenness and anti-social acts.  And  more and more, don’t be surprised by what may seem to you unnecessary or even inappropriate selfy-ism.  Bottom line, don’t judge.  Your actions may be equally alien to them.

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Queues at Santiago de Compostela

Third, be ready for hustle and bustle at the site of your pilgrimage goal.  While some quieter shrines, and wayside churches may well be places for quiet contemplation, most of the famous sites will not be so tranquil.  I found the Via Dolorosa  awash with tourists, vendors, pilgrims and more.  Santiago de Compostela was packed for mass, and crowds waited outside.  This does not mean that they were not spiritually moving experiences, but rather that they were less than idyllic.

Fourth, make the most of the time you have.  Even with crowds, or with others with different agendas than your own, find time and a place to make the pilgrimage your own.  If you tend to seek solitude for prayer, consider visiting a side chapel, or neighboring church for your reflections.  Most cathedral cities have these.  If you are a emotional or tactile worshiper, find a time to touch the stones (as in the Holy Sepulchre) at less busy times of the day.

St Oswald Chapel 1

Side Chapel Peterborough Cathedral

Finally, whether the experience met your expectations, or no, remember to be thankful for the opportunity, and be sure to reflect on what blessings you have gained.

I hope that what ever your spiritual journey may be, that it will be blessed.




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