I have seen the trailer for the movie The Bucket List combined with the quickly approaching season of Lent, got me to thinking about a Christian “bucket list” and I realized that there already was one made up and acted upon for over 1800 years in some cases – Pilgrimages. I thought I’d make up a list of the pilgrimages I’d like to accomplished before my time is up and/or the body is still able to do so. There was an even older Jewish tradition of pilgrimages to see the Ark of the Covenant (Jg 20:18) or Shiloh(1 Sam 1:3) and Jesus going up to Jerusalem ( Lk 2:41), but anyway one of the first recorded pilgrims was Bishop Abercius of Hierapolis- 180A.D.
“The citizen of a chosen city, this [monument] I made [while] living, that there I might have in time a resting-place of my body, [I] being by name Abercius, the disciple of a holy shepherd who feeds flocks of sheep [both] on mountains and on plains, who has great eyes that see everywhere. For this [shepherd] taught me [that the] book [of life] is worthy of belief. And to Rome he sent me to contemplate majesty, and to see a queen golden-robed and golden-sandalled; there also I saw a people bearing a shining mark. And I saw the land of Syria and all [its] cities Nisibis [I saw] when I passed over Euphrates. But everywhere I had brethren. I had Paul. . . . Faith everywhere led me forward, and everywhere provided as my food a fish of exceeding great size, and perfect, which a holy virgin drew with her hands from a fountain and this it faith ever gives to its friends to eat, it having wine of great virtue, and giving it mingled with bread. These things I, Abercius, having been a witness [of them] told to be written here. Verily I was passing through my seventy-second year. He that discerneth these things, every fellow-believer [namely], let him pray for Abercius. And no one shall put another grave over my grave; but if he do, then shall he pay to the treasury of [the] Romans two thousand pieces of gold and to my good native city of Hieropolis one thousand pieces of gold.”
Now for some background which I think perhaps is needed here.
Pope John Paul II issued a BULL OF INDICTION back in1998 called Incarnationis Mysterium. This called for a Jubilee Year to be celebrated in the year 2000.
8. In addition to pilgrimage, there is the sign of the holy door, opened for the first time in the Basilica of the Most Holy Saviour at the Lateran during the Jubilee of 1423. It evokes the passage from sin to grace which every Christian is called to accomplish. Jesus said: “I am the door” (Jn 10:7), in order to make it clear that no one can come to the Father except through him. This designation which Jesus applies to himself testifies to the fact that he alone is the Saviour sent by the Father. There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into the life of communion with God: this is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation. To him alone can the words of the Psalmist be applied in full truth: “This is the door of the Lord where the just may enter” (Ps 118:20).To focus upon the door is to recall the responsibility of every believer to cross its threshold. To pass through that door means to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; it is to strengthen faith in him in order to live the new life which he has given us. It is a decision which presumes freedom to choose and also the courage to leave something behind, in the knowledge that what is gained is divine life (cf. Mt 13:44-46).
I love the image of the holy door.
The opening of the Holy Door is the main symbol of a Jubilee, the Catholic term derived from the Hebrew word ”yobel,” a law handed down by Moses requiring that slaves be freed and debts forgiven every 50 years. The main entrance to St. Peter’s in Rome is located under the statue of the Risen Christ to symbolize that we have to enter the church through faith in Christ. The Holy Year door, however is narrower then the main entrance to emphasize the scriptural passage “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me, will be saved. He will go in and out, and find pasture” (Jn 10:9). It is also called the Door of the Great Pardon.
Now we come to an historic bit of controversy. Pope John Paul II continues in the document with the other part of a Pilgrimage – Indulgences.
9…From the first centuries, however, the Church has always been profoundly convinced that pardon, freely granted by God, implies in consequence a real change of life, the gradual elimination of evil within, a renewal in our way of living. The sacramental action had to be combined with an existential act, with a real cleansing from fault, precisely what is called penance. Pardon does not imply that this existential process becomes superfluous, but rather that it acquires a meaning, that it is accepted and welcomed. Reconciliation with God does not mean that there are no enduring consequences of sin from which we must be purified. It is precisely in this context that the indulgence becomes important, since it is an expression of the “total gift of the mercy of God”. With the indulgence, the repentant sinner receives a remission of the temporal punishment due for the sins already forgiven as regards the fault.
Now that my Protestant readers who have just recovered their jaws from the floor and thought that Indulgences were thrown out the door, they haven’t been. Certainly Pilgrimages and Indulgences have been regulated to the back of the bus, but the church seems to shelve some traditions for a time and bring them back in vogue to fit a given age’s needs.
There are IMO three big (as in ancient and universally accepted) Pilgrimages. I’d really like to accomplish one each of these with my wife, daughter, sons, brother and one just by myself. I have no idea if I can accomplish any of these due to time, money and health, but it’s a goal.
The first two Pilgrimages need no additional information since they have remained popular to the extent that nothing needs to be said.
1) the tomb of the Apostles at Rome
2) The way of the Cross in Jerusalem
3) The way of St. James at Compostella – Confraternity of Saint James –great as in invaluble resource. I haven’t read the book yet, but heard good things about it is The Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago de Compostela
In a close second tier are:
4) The relics of the Three Kings at Cologne
5) St. Thomas a Becket in Canterbury and of course one would be aided in reading Chaucer’s C A N T E R B U R Y T A L E S
6) Lourdes for those who want their Marian devotions.
And then a host of others depending on you nationality, but since I’m blessed of Irish decent my two would be:
7) Downpatrick – St. Bridget, Padrick, & Columba
8) St. Patrick’s Purgatory-Lough Derg
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