How to prepare for a pilgrimage
Brought to you by the Holy Land Franciscan Pilgrimage Office
1. Prepare Your Itinerary
Choose your destination. Whether it’s a visit to the Holy Land, Italy, or a place of spiritual significance in your own region, there are no end of places to visit on pilgrimage.
Plan your route. When you book your pilgrimage through the Holy Land Franciscan Pilgrimage Office, your complete itinerary is set for you. All you need to do is look through the itineraries, and decide which is best for you. Set a realistic expectation of your abilities. There will be a lot of walking, so choose your itinerary accordingly.
Book your pilgrimage. Follow the next step, and book your pilgrimage. Either fill in the sheet located online or call 1-800-566-7499 to book.
Book your transportation to the airport. While all of your transportation on your pilgrimage is organized on your behalf, you will need to arrange for transportation to and from the airport. Look into long-term parking, public transportation or arrange for family members to assist with the drop-off and pick up.
2. Prepare Your Body
Start a walking plan ahead of time. Pilgrimages often require long days of walking as you often visit several churches and sites in one day. Prepare ahead of time by walking every day in advance of your pilgrimage. Start with smaller increments and work up to several miles a day as you get closer to the day.
Prepare your feet. Get good walking shoes and break them in early (blisters are a part of pilgrimage, and putting your feet into new un-stretched shoes won’t help). The right shoes will make a difference during your pilgrimage.
3. Prepare Your Pack
Clothes. Be prepared for all seasons! It can be cold and hot in the same day depending on the weather and the church. So pack a hat, jacket, cardigan, gloves (depending on the time of year), scarves, etc. Pack lightweight clothes so as not to add additional weight. Bring layers to carry with you that you can easily take off if it’s too warm. For a complete packing list click here >>
Essentials. Medications, sunscreen, Imodium AD & Pepto Bismol, insect repellant.
Technology. Cameras will help you to remember your pilgrimage for years to come, but make sure that you are able to easily carry your camera. You don’t want it to become a hindrance. While we strongly encourage you to not use your mobile phone, you can still pack it for emergencies. Pilgrimages are about disconnecting from the world and connecting with God through places of spiritual significance. Technology only serves to distract from this process.
4. Prepare Your Soul
Clarify your purpose. People go on pilgrimage for a variety of reasons: to mark a significant birthday or milestone, to enjoy exercise in nature, to offer penance for their sins (as pilgrims did in the Middle Ages). But at its best, a pilgrimage is a walk with God to a special place. How will you get the most out of your pilgrimage spiritually? In addition to having your own goals for your trip, what goals might God have for it?
Pray your preparation. Take the time during your preparation walks (referenced above) to pray in solitude out in God’s world. This can be a great time to seek Him for what the focus of your pilgrimage should be. Is there some aspect of your life God wants to address? Some question on your heart you want an answer to? The needs of others you’re wanting to lift to Him along the way? You could consider a one-day prayer retreat before your journey to seek God’s agenda for your pilgrimage.
Start your journal now. Often times it’s not until you review journals months later that you can see the progress you’ve made. Start your journal before you leave. Write down what you are looking forward to and what you are anxious about. What do you want to learn or think you’ll learn? Be dedicated to your journal throughout your pilgrimage. Just like pictures help you remember details, your journal will be a way to remember your thoughts and observations.
Consider a daily focus. A pilgrimage can be a great way to explore a new spiritual practice or some new (or forgotten) aspect of your relationship with God. Here are some ideas for making each day count:
- Explore a classic spiritual discipline like prayer, fasting (partial, if energy is a concern), silence, confession, etc.
- Meditate on a Psalm each day
- Read through a book of the Bible (the Gospel of Mark is easily covered in 8 days)
- Focus on a different fruit of the Spirit or gift of the Spirit
- Reflect on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or the Lord’s Prayer
- Contemplate Jesus’ final 8 days on earth
- Reflect on Jesus’ personal mission statement, and let it shape your own
- Take a photograph representing 8 qualities of God you need to remember right now