The Catholic Catechism says that a pilgrimage “evokes our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally special occasions for renewal in prayer. For pilgrims seeking living water, shrines are special places for living the forms of Christian prayer.” (CCC 1674)
This week, we got to hear from some parishioners who made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia. Medjugorie was only recently recognized by the Catholic Church as a credible site for a pilgrimage and it joins a list of many sites, official and unofficial, that Catholics might choose to visit to experience prayer at a shrine.
The first point of our discussion was to share the experience that our parishioners had in visiting Bosnia and to hear how their pilgrimage touched their faith. Such experiences reach people in different ways.
The second point of our discussion was to talk about miracles. Many have visited Medjugorie and heard about the apparitions there and have come away with their own personal stories: Rosaries that change to gold, learning of a secret revealed, actual healing. These are miraculous events that require some faith to understand. However, the Medjugorie stories we heard also included how strangers assisted a young girl who got separated from her family and was dehydrated and how travelers at Medjugorie assisted each other to make the long climb to the actual shrine. These human gestures are how God displays his love to us.
By talking about a pilgrimage, we are also invited to recognize that miracles can and do happen outside of shrines and churches, where God reveals his love in human ways. How many times have you thought about how lucky you are because some chance event happened that brought good things to your life? Or, that you just happened to be standing in a place where you could see the horizon and could watch the sun actually set for the day? What if we were to look at these somewhat more common occurrences as miracles in our midst? With each witnessed miracle, we turn to our Creator to recognize His greatness. This is a good thing! Each time we recognize something that God has done for us, we are more inclined to recognize Him more!