Going Home: A Pilgrimage

blackberries - photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto

Have you ever considered going home as a pilgrimage? Maybe you’re going back to the hometown of your childhood, or maybe you’re going to the town in which you attended college or got married or began your career. If the location has a lot of meaning for you, why not be intentional about your visit?

  • Make it a journey of gratitude. As you wander that location, make a list of all the gifts that place gave you. At key places, offer a prayer of thanks.
  • Make it a journey of healing. Rather than tallying up gifts, identify the aspects of that place that harmed you—the site where your house burned down, or the workplace that was toxic, or the home in which you endured an abusive relationship. Take to those places clear statements of what they did to you. Offer those memories and locations to God and ask for continued healing.
  • Make it a journey of renewed relationship. Reconnect with people who were key influences on you: the teacher who encouraged or inspired you, the best friend from fifth grade, the priest who helped you find direction as a teenager or young parent.

I can remember traveling with a few relatives out to the “old farm,” where my great-aunt and her husband had lived and farmed for years. Throughout my childhood, that was a special family gathering spot, and it held many memories. We got permission to walk through the pasture and down to the creek—how many times had we done that, how many walks had we taken down to the timber to pick pecans or blackberries? Family no longer lived there, and we all sensed it would be the last time we’d see the place. It was a way of saying goodbye, and I’m so glad we did it.

Do you have any stories of pilgrimage to your past? What wisdom do you have?

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Vinita. Going on a pilgrimage is an important aspect of our spiritual and cultural eco-system in India. Right now it’s a time to go on a pilgrimage to pray and pay respect to the mortal remains of Saint Francis Xavier at the Bom Jesus Basilica in Old Goa. Saint Francis Xavier – Pray for us.

  2. When we can articulate the emotional resonances a place has for us then we are ‘going home’. Often, if we’ve lived in one place long enough there are a variety of emotions. Making the decision to leave a place can involve multiple reasons and, if there are raw emotions still at work, perhaps it’s best to sit with those and pray for clarity. It takes time for forgiveness and healing (for self and others) to be processed.

  3. When my beloved Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA closed in 2021, I made a “pilgrimage” over the course of the week of my last retreat there to all the places inside the building and on the vast property surrounding it – all holy ground. I allowed memories to surface – of the many experiences and encounters with God that I had over the thirty years there on retreats and gave thanks for each one! Definitely a pilgrimage of gratitude!

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