people often think of a pilgrimage in terms of  ...

... making a literal journey to some exotic place in the world. But a pilgrimage is not simply, mostly, or only -- about traveling from one place in the world to another, and back again.  Pilgrimage is different than a vacation.

As pilgrimage expert, Phil Cousineau, notes, “[pilgrimage] is an ancient tradition of the transformative journey to a sacred place.” Cousineau also notes that “such journeys tend to happen at life’s crossroads.” As such, pilgrimage is something that is more about the internal aspects of the journey, rather than the external conditions. Pilgrimage involves ritual, risk and renewal. It is about intention; about making the most of one’s time rather than stumbling through time. Pilgrimage may, indeed, involve going to a certain sacred geographical place far from home, in order to allow something holy to happen, in that place, that can’t happen anywhere else; to be healed in some way, or reconciled or to understand.

Of course, in this sense, pilgrimage doesn’t necessarily have to involve planes, trains, boats or automobiles. Such can happen very close to home; in a worship service, a walk in the woods, at an art gallery, reading a book, traveling to be with a loved one during their final days of physical life. And yet, there is something to the power of a pilgrimage in unfamiliar territory, while far from one’s geographical home.

During one person’s initial pilgrimage to the land of their ancestors, they were utterly surprised by a deep new and empowering sense of peace. Such came in knowing, for the first time in their life, what it meant to come home; to be most most truly “home.” So transformative was this new wisdom the pilgrimage offered, that the person now had the gifts to be “at home” wherever they happened to be from that point forward along their life’s journey.

Pilgrimage has the ability to help prodigals of all shapes and situations find their way home.  Another way to say this is, to paraphrase Phil Cousineau’s thoughts, “pilgrimage is one answer to the question, ‘do you know where I can find God?’.” And, in “finding” God along the way, we can go home realizing God has been, and will be, with us forevermore.