Make It For Mary
In the swirl of events that will mark the birth of Jesus almost 2,000 years ago, don't forget about His mother!
That's the advice of Pope John Paul II, who said in April that "the Great Jubilee permits us to contemplate Mary, who cannot be separated from her divine Son." Understanding Mary is a necessary step in preparing for 2000. Mary, said the Pope, "was the first person to delight at the birth of the Savior. Her joy is the source of the joy of all the jubilees."
Though Pope John Paul didn't suggest specific ways to honor Mary, he certainly would approve the idea of a Marian pilgrimage. He has made many of them himself. And the day before the pope reminded the world of Mary's jubilee significance, the Vatican released a new document, "The Pilgrimage in the Great Jubilee," about the Holy Father's desire to encourage all pilgrims in the coming jubilee days.
The document reviews the history of the pilgrimage, from the ancient Exodus journeys of the Jews, through the peak of the pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, up to our modern era of jet flights and air-conditioned tour buses. In every age, the document says, (Christians have longed to touch holy ground, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and the saints. Today, there are many ways to go on pilgrimage to honor Mary. Here are suggestions for making your journey more manageable and meaningful.
1. Choose the pilgrimage that's right for you.
You'll choose, generally, from two types of pilgrimage. One would be taking a long trip to an established Marian shrine in the United States or another country. Established tours generally run a week, two weeks or longer.
"Today, about 80 percent of the shrines in the Catholic world are dedicated to Mary," reported Father Thomas Thompson, director of the University of Dayton's Marian Library. The most popular are connected with apparitions, healings or national devotion. Each year, 10 million pilgrims travel to Guadalupe in Mexico; 6 million go to Lourdes in France; 5 million tour Czestochowa in Poland and 4 million make their way to Aparecida in Brazil. Within the last dozen years, an estimated 20 million have visited Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin began in 1981.
If you plan to make a larger pilgrimage — to Fatima, Lourdes or an American shrine such as the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. — try to interest family members, friends or parishioners in joining you. Work with an established Catholic tour company. A good tour group can tell you much about costs, accommodations and transportation.
Long pilgrimages have a hallowed history, and it's an option you can consider if you have the time and money. But if you can't make a long pilgrimage, honor Mary close to home. She's like any good mother. You don't have to spend extravagant sums or travel thousands of miles to please her.
Contact your diocese and get a list of churches or shrines to which you could travel as a pilgrim.
You could travel to a different local shrine on a selected day of each month — say the 25th, the day in December on which the Nativity of Jesus is celebrated, and in March on the day of the Annunciation.
Another option? You could make your pilgrimages on Sunday afternoons or on Marian feasts. Or you could be a pilgrim every day for a solid week during Lent or Advent.
2. Travel light.
Jesus told His disciples not to take an extra pair of sandals or an extra cloak. "Travel light" has always been the pilgrim's motto. Medieval Christians wore their entire pilgrimage wardrobe. A broad-brimmed hat shut out rain and sun. A long-belted tunic was "one size fits all" and was like the garment Jesus wore. A single pouch slung across the shoulder carried a pilgrim's necessities. An iron-tipped cane or "pilgrim's staff" completed the simple uniform.
Take only what you need. Walk as much as you can, if it's safe. Turn off the radios, leave your beepers and phones behind. Leave the comforts of home at home. Trust in God that your needs will be taken care of. With less stuff, you will have fewer distractions. You can focus more on your destination and the reason for your journey.
3. Gather a pilgrimage group.
Resist the "temptation" to go solo. It might seem less complicated, but a pilgrimage is best pursued in a community of believers. Think of Mary — and Jesus! In their day, Jews from Nazareth traveled three times each year in caravans to celebrate holy days in Jerusalem. It was a three-day journey each way. The people sang and talked as they walked, preparing to encounter God.
Even if you' re just crossing town to say the Rosary at a parish church, invite a friend to accompany you. Go with your family. Take some children who know little about the Rosary. Or gather families together. Say the Rosary as a group on the way over. Have a potluck picnic in a park on the way home.
4. Go as a pilgrim, not a tourist.
The Vatican document on pilgrimage says: "The specific element that distinguishes the pilgrimage from tourism is symbolism." Tourism is travel for fun; a pilgrimage is a journey of faith. A pilgrimage symbolizes conversion, and conversion is a process of moving ahead spiritually. By definition, a pilgrim is on the move. A change of heart, growth in faith, a healing in the spirit is the pilgrim's destination.
On your pilgrimage, go to pray. Break away from the group at times. Find a quiet corner or spend a half-hour alone. Go to listen for the "tiny whispering sound." That's where the prophet Elijah finally found the voice of God. He had listened for Him in the noise and violent forces that visited the mountain. But God was not in the strong wind, nor in the earthquake or the fire. God was in the silence. Don't go on pilgrimage with a complicated agenda. Suppress the urges to shop and party.
Make a pilgrimage to honor Mary. That will please her Son. •
Marian Shrines in the United States
Our Lady of Sorrows in Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Colusa.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Litchfield.
District of Columbia (Washington)
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Mary, Queen of the Universe, Orlando.
Our Lady of La Leche, St. Augustine
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Sanctuary of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, Libertyville.
Our Lady of Monte Cassino, St. Meinrad.
National Votive Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, New Orleans. (A National Historic Landmark) Maryland
National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore.
National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, Ipswich.
Our Lady of Fatima, Holliston.
National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Perryville.
Our Lady of Sorrows, Starkenburg.
Our Lady of Grace, Colebrook.
Our Lady of LaSalette, Enfield.
Blue Army Shrine of the Immaculate
National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, West Haverstraw.
Our Lady of Fatima National Shrine Basilica, Youngstown.
Our Lady of Victory National Shrine, Lackawanna.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Brooklyn.
Our Lady of Martyrs, Auriesville.
Our Lady of the Island, Eastport.
National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, Carey.
National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon, Jackson.
Our Lady of Czestochowa, Garfield Heights.
Our Lady of Fatima, Ironton.
Oratory of the Weeping Madonna of Mariopoch (Byzantine rite), Burton.
Sorrowful Mother, Bellevue.
The Grotto (National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother), Portland.
National Shrine Center of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Allentown.
National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown.
Our Lady of San Juan del Valle,
Holy Hill — National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians, Hubertus.
Mary, Mother Thrice Admirable Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt, Waukesha.
A partial listing, as reported by "Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Almanac," 1998 edition.
Make your pilgrimage during the coming Jubilee Year 2000, and you can gain a plenary indulgence for yourself or someone else. An indulgence removes the temporal punishment due for sins that have been forgiven in sacramental confession. To gain the indulgence, you need also make a confession, receive the Holy Eucharist and pray for the intentions of the Pope.
Catherine Odell is editor of My Daily Visitor, a devotional guide published by Our Sunday Visitor.
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