What Is a Catholic Pilgrimage? 10 Wonderful Things to Know About the Tradition

Are you also wondering what is a Catholic pilgrimage? If yes, let’s find out in this post together.

A Catholic pilgrimage is an ancient tradition that dates back centuries. It is a spiritual journey to a sacred place or shrine for the purpose of prayer and reflection that has already been practiced even in the middle ages.

Pilgrimages allow Catholics to deepen their faith, seek spiritual guidance, and find solace.

The Catholic Church has long encouraged pilgrimage as a way to strengthen the spiritual lives of its faithful. Pilgrimage to holy sites is often a part of the spiritual experience of individuals, families, and even entire countries.

A common example of a Catholic pilgrimage is the Camino de Santiago, an ancient route in Spain that has been traveled by pilgrims for centuries. It is said to be the final resting place of the apostle St. James, and hundreds of thousands of Catholics make the challenging trek every year.

Other popular Catholic destinations for pilgrimage include the basilicas of Rome, the shrines at Lourdes, Fatima, and Knock in Ireland, and the holy sites in the Holy Land. Pilgrims often make the journey in groups, with a spiritual leader guiding them along the way.

So, What Is A Catholic Pilgrimage?

A pilgrimage is more than just a physical journey; it is a spiritual journey that involves prayer, reflection, and contemplation. It is a journey that believers take to honor and venerate important figures, places, and events in the history of Christianity.

A Catholic pilgrimage doesn’t mean going far places to make a spiritual journey. I love how VersoMinistries defined it:

It can be made anywhere, by anyone, for just about any spiritual purpose. For Catholics, it means traveling to a destination – whether it’s a holy site, outdoor space, or even near to home – to experience God in a unique way.

A walk in the park or a visit to the closest Church can be a pilgrimage when you have the right mindset and purpose.

While TektonMinistries defines it as:

A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey. We don’t choose our destination; it is God drawing us into Himself. Something inside us simply yearns to go. We feel invited, even summoned. Actually, we don’t have to “go” anywhere, for life itself is a pilgrimage. but going affords us the opportunity to leave behind that which hinders us from moving forward.”

The purpose of these pilgrimages is to deepen one’s faith by visiting holy sites associated with Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the saints. Pilgrims often spend time reflecting on their spiritual lives while on a pilgrimage, as well as giving thanks for the blessings they have received from God.

The most famous Catholic pilgrimage destination is the Vatican City in Rome, Italy. However, there are many other sacred spots throughout Europe and around the world where pilgrims can go.

photo of a father with his son making a mini camino de Santiago to signify What is a Catholic pilgrimage.

Some of these include Jerusalem – home to some of Jesus’ ministry; Santiago de Compostela in Spain – which marks the final resting place of St James; Assisi in Italy – the birthplace of St Francis; and Marian shrines like Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, and Knock Shrine in Ireland.

10 things to know the about catholic pilgrimage tradition

1. Why Do Catholics Make Pilgrimages?

Catholics make pilgrimages for many reasons. For some, it is a way to deepen their faith and be closer to God by visiting holy sites associated with Jesus or other saints and learning more about the history of their faith. For others, it is an opportunity to ask for God’s guidance and strength in their life.

Pilgrimages can also be a way to give thanks for the blessings they have received from God. Pilgrimages are often a time for prayer, reflection, contemplation, and a time to renew one’s faith and relationship with God.

It can also be a great way to connect with other Catholics from around the world.

As for my family, we love going to pilgrimage sites because it is a powerful way to connect with our faith and experience a deeper level of prayer and devotion.

photo of a mother and her son in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
A very short pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France when our firstborn was 10 months old.

We feel a strong connection to the places where Jesus, Mary, and the saints have been, and it is a way to honor our faith and become more deeply rooted in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

It is also our way of giving thanks to Our Lord for all the blessings He has given to our family. And we feel happy and contented everytime we go on pilgrimages, be it very short or for a few days.

2. What Should I Expect During My Catholic Pilgrimage?

When making a Catholic pilgrimage it’s important to remember that it should not just be an opportunity for sightseeing but rather an opportunity for prayerful reflection and contemplation about one’s faith life.

A typical day might involve attending Mass at a local church or monastery before engaging with nearby shrines or monuments associated with the Blessed Virgin or the saint being honored during the trip. Additionally, pilgrims often offer prayers at each stop along their journey asking God for guidance and strength as they continue on their path toward holiness through devotion and service to Him.

photo of San Francisco Church in Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Attending Mass at San Francisco Church on our 4 days pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

By embarking on such a spiritual journey filled with meaningful moments both big and small Catholics can gain insight into their own spirituality while also learning more about our common Church heritage—a priceless gift indeed!

3. How Can I Prepare For My Catholic Pilgrimage?

Preparing for a Catholic pilgrimage is an important and necessary step to ensure that it is a meaningful and spiritually rewarding experience.

The first step is to be familiar with the history and significance of the place you are visiting. Do research on the saints or places associated with your pilgrimage, and familiarize yourself with the Church’s teachings and traditions associated with the pilgrimage.

photo of the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the river Ebro

It is also important to be physically and mentally prepared for the pilgrimage. If possible, plan to arrive at the destination with plenty of rest and a positive attitude.

Pack light and comfortable clothing, and be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks (they can be expensive in the location or there are no stores nearby).

Make sure to bring a prayer book, a Bible, and other spiritual reading materials, too, to help you stay focused on your purpose for being there.

Finally, it is important to remember that a Catholic pilgrimage is a time for prayer, reflection, and spiritual growth. As you prepare for the pilgrimage, spend some time in prayer and contemplation asking God for guidance and strength on your journey.

4. What Should I Wear During My Catholic Pilgrimage?

When making a Catholic pilgrimage, it is important to dress in a modest and respectful manner.

Modest, comfortable clothing that is appropriate for the climate is recommended, such as long pants and shirts with sleeves. It is also important to dress appropriately for religious sites, such as churches. For women, this may include wearing a head covering, such as a scarf or hat, when entering a church.

It is also highly recommended to wear comfortable shoes, as many Catholic pilgrimages involve a lot of walking.

5. What Should I Bring With Me On My Catholic Pilgrimage?

When embarking on a Catholic pilgrimage, it is important to be prepared for the journey ahead. Make sure to bring the following items with you:

– Comfortable clothing and shoes

– Sunscreen and a hat

– Water and snacks

– A Bible, prayer book, and other spiritual reading materials

– A journal to record your thoughts and reflections

– A camera to capture the special moments

– A rosary to pray the mysteries

– Any religious items associated with the saint or shrine you are visiting

– An open heart and mind to receive the graces God may grant you along the way

6. How Long Will My Catholic Pilgrimage Last?

The length of your Catholic pilgrimage will depend on the specific route that you take and the amount of time you have available. Some pilgrimages may only last a few days, while others could be a week or longer.

It is important to plan your route and timeline in advance to make sure that you are able to get the most out of your pilgrimage.

Remember, a Catholic pilgrimage is a time for prayer, reflection, and spiritual growth, so it is important to take your time and enjoy the journey.

7. What Happens At The End Of My Catholic Pilgrimage?

At the end of a Catholic pilgrimage, it is important to take time to reflect on your experience. It is a time to look back on all that you have seen, learned, and experienced and to give thanks to God for the graces He has granted you.

Take some time to write down your thoughts and reflections, and record any special moments that you experienced during the pilgrimage. You can also bring home souvenirs or religious items associated with the pilgrimage to remind you of your journey.

photo of a father and his son lighting candle to offer to the altar on their pilgrimage - another family activity during Lent

And most importantly, your Catholic pilgrimage should end with a commitment to live the faith and to continue to grow in your relationship with God.

8. Do I Need To Be Confirmed In Order To Make A Catholic Pilgrimage?

No, you do not need to be confirmed in order to make a Catholic pilgrimage. While confirmation is an important sacrament of the Church, making a pilgrimage is an act of faith that is open to all people. All that is required is a commitment to prayer and reflection.

Who knows, taking a Catholic pilgrimage might be key in your decision to receive the Sacrament of confirmation.

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9. How Can I Find Catholic Pilgrimages Near Me?

There are many ways to find Catholic pilgrimages near you. You can start by checking with your local parish or diocese to see if they have any upcoming pilgrimage opportunities.

You can also search online for pilgrimages in your area. Many pilgrimage organizations have websites and social media accounts where they post information about upcoming pilgrimages.

You can ask your friends and family if they have ever taken a pilgrimage, as they may be able to provide you with additional information.

10. Some Bible Verses About Pilgrimage

The Bible is full of references to pilgrimage and the importance of journeying in faith. Even the Holy Family made a pilgrimage every year to Jerusalem. The Bible tells us that every year, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

This is mentioned in Luke 2:41-42, which says “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.” This pilgrimage was a sign of their faith and commitment to God and was a reminder of the importance of remembering and honoring the Lord. For the Holy Family, this pilgrimage was a time of spiritual growth and connection to the Lord.

photo of a shell on the road - a famous Camino de Santiago guide
A shell engraved on the street – a famous Camino de Santiago directional guide for pilgrims.

In Exodus 3:17, God speaks to Moses, saying: “I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” – this verse speaks to the power of pilgrimage, and of journeying to new places and finding the Lord in unexpected places.

And here are two more Bible verses about pilgrimage:

1 Kings 3:4 – “The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.”

1 Samuel 1:3 – “Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the Lord there.”

Final Thoughts On Catholic Pilgrimage

A Catholic pilgrimage is an incredible opportunity for spiritual growth and reflection. It is a time to deepen our relationship with God, learn more about our faith, and be surrounded by the beauty and grace of the Catholic Church.

The experience of a Catholic pilgrimage is something that will stay with you for a lifetime. So, if you are feeling called to take a Catholic pilgrimage, don’t hesitate! Pack your bags, say a prayer, and begin your journey today.


Before you go, check out these pilgrimage-relates posts:

Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France with Kids: What to See & Do

11 Best Hotels In Lourdes, France Near The Grotto of Massabielle

17 Most Popular Catholic France Pilgrimage Sites You Should Visit

Visiting the Beautiful Sanctuary of Our Lady of Meritxell in Andorra

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