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Roman Catholic Pilgrimage, Its Origin and Benefits Essay

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Updated: Apr 24th, 2021

Why do people go on pilgrimages?

Based on the perspective of Feiler presented in the film “Sacred Journeys”, it can be stated that the reason people go on pilgrimages is to enter into a period of quiet reflection and contemplation about their thoughts, their path in life, and in which direction they should be heading when it comes to their respective faiths. It can be considered as a form of affirmation wherein you begin to examine the tenets of the faith you follow and examine them from a clearer perspective. From the viewpoint of the film, the reflection lies somewhere involved with the notion of learning and thinking, in that people reflect in order to learn something or it is people learning as a result of reflection.

This view is basically similar to the manner in which a person gains more knowledge from reviewing a particular event or situation and determining what could have been done better or what would have been the best recourse at the time. In the case of a pilgrimage, reflective learning helps to establish certain conditioned actions in a person towards more appropriate forms of behavior based on learning from past experiences. The conditioned reflex comes about when a certain familiar type of external stimuli is introduced wherein through reflective learning a person is able to produce the correct type of response over and over again based on the type of external stimulus introduced. Basically, by going on a pilgrimage, people gain the capacity to reflect on their previous behavior and implement needed changes based on where they have discerned that they are lacking.

People have gone before your Pilgrimage

When examining the statement of Feiler regarding the concept of people having gone before your own pilgrimage, it is important to note that when going towards your destination, you are actually following in the steps of the people that have come before you. Their journey influenced not only themselves but the land that they walked on in the form of the various towns, inns, and buildings that were created in order to help travelers along their respective journeys. Cultural artifacts, special locations of significance as well as special events (i.e. festivals) held during specific periods of time when pilgrimages occur are all manifestations of the influence that pilgrims have had on the places they journey to. It is due to this that the statement of Feiler makes much more sense since a modern-day pilgrim is in effect walking the paths that have already been established for them by those in the past. In a sense, it can be considered as a form of religious heritage for pilgrims who are inheriting the traditions set by previous pilgrims.

Similarities that he encountered

From the perspective of Feiler, one of the similarities that he encountered was the concept of reflective thinking during a pilgrimage which helps a person determine what precise set of developed traits works in regards to interacting with various situations and people. It is a concept that clarifies which aspects need further improvement and which behavioral features of a person are fine the way they are. Thus, reflective thinking during a pilgrimage can be considered as a manner in which a person’s mind becomes clearer and more in tune with their internal spirituality which is the primary purpose behind going on a pilgrimage in the first place. It can be considered as a reflective affirmation of faith wherein you renew your beliefs based on what you have learned through your journey.

Based on this, it can be assumed that one of the benefits of a pilgrimage is that it enables people to sort out the different factors related to their faith and determine why such factors influenced them.

When is a Pilgrimage Completed?

The one true lesson that can be taken from the movie is that any person, no matter their social class, race, or ethnicity has some form of faith and it is within that faith that acts of affirmation are needed. From the perspective of Feiler, the true completion of a pilgrimage occurs when the individual in question has been able to successfully reflect on who they are as a person, where they stand when it comes to what they believe in, and what sort of personal affirmation they have received from the pilgrimage. Since a pilgrimage can be considered as a journey of discovery, its completion can thus be considered as when a person has truly discovered something about themselves or something in relation to their own faith.

The Origin of the Pilgrimage

The El Camino Pilgrimage, based on the accounts stated within the videos, has its origins in the early Christian tradition and was originally founded as a way to commemorate the supposed resting place of St. James. The length of the pilgrimage actually varies considerably based on where a person comes from. Based on what has been stated in the video, as well as other accounts, it was noted that many chose to utilize either the traditional routes that were originally trodden on by the early Christian pilgrims or they utilized easier routes as well as more modern methods of actually getting there. Thus, the length of a pilgrimage can last between a period of a few days (utilizing modern routes and methods of travel) to a few weeks if the traditional routes and methods of travel are to be utilized. All in all, the main purpose behind the pilgrimage itself is to “find oneself” in that it is not only a religious journey towards the resting place of one of the church’s saints, it is also a way in which a person can undergo personal introspection as they traverse the original journey of the pilgrims and undergo a form of “transformation” so to speak as the journey enables them to slowly examine their life, who they are and what purpose does religion serve in their life.

The Call

The first individual that will be examined is Amy Eakin is a student at Ohio State and is about to start her graduate school program soon. When examining the case of Ms. Eakin, it is apparent that the reason why she is going on a pilgrimage is due to the fact that she is feeling overwhelmed when it comes to her school work. She is ending one aspect of her life and is about to start something new. This resulted in a slight level of apprehension on her part since she is leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar and, as a result, she is feeling afraid for the future. It is due to this that she is going on a pilgrimage in order to center herself, make peace with her thoughts, and listen to God and what he has in store for her.

The second person to be examined is Erin Ferrel, similar to the case of Ms. Eakins, Ms. Ferrell is also a student; however, in this case, this is her first time abroad, and is more nonchalant about her participation. She states that this pilgrimage will act as a means of finding herself and to enable her to better connect to God.

The Separation

In the case of Ms. Eakin, what she is leaving behind are her worries when it comes to her upcoming graduate school activities as well as the pressure being placed on her to graduate from her current undergraduate program. It is clear that Ms. Eakin is worried about the future, as most college students are when they are near their graduation period, and it is this level of worrying combined with healthy doses of uncertainty that are adversely affecting her. As such, she is going on this pilgrimage in order to leave such problems behind and look at her life objectively so that she can figure out what she should do.

For Ms. Ferrell, she is not leaving much behind since she has just finished her college courses and is about to enter into the workforce as a veterinarian. On the other hand, she has put a hold on her career in order to take part in her pilgrimage and, as such, it can be assumed that such an act can be deduced as an important aspect of her life that she has left behind. From a certain perspective, leaving behind her career, albeit temporarily, in order to undertake a pilgrimage can be surmised as realizing that a higher power is needed in order to help understand what future paths to take in life.

The Journey

The personal sacrifice that Ms. Eakin is undergoing in order to complete the pilgrimage comes in the form of having to leave behind her studies and all that comes with it in order to travel. This is particularly worrisome for her since her future is dependent on being able to do well in her exams and papers. However, given her desire to enter into a better state of mind as well as connect with God. She has chosen to go on a pilgrimage instead.

In the case of Ms. Ferrell, the personal sacrifice she has undergone is that this is her first time abroad. Everything about the experience will be new and maybe even terrifying since there will be nothing that she will be able to draw on as familiar during the entirety of the experience.

The Contemplation

During the entirety of her pilgrimage, Ms. Eakin debated with herself regarding her school work, her upcoming career, and her relationship with God as well as how all these factors combine to influence her decisions. Throughout her journey, Ms. Eakin contemplated her relationship with God and how a lot of what she has been concentrating on in relation to her school work and career should be considered as secondary when it comes to her relationship with the almighty.

For Ms. Ferrell, the entirety of the experience enabled her to realize that there is more to life than what she has learned. Through the pilgrimage, not only was she able to develop a better relationship with God, but she was also able to understand that she should broaden her thoughts beyond the walls that she has crafted for herself when it comes to her career. While she was not able to derive the same sort of experience as Ms. Eakin since for her this is a more nonchalant trip, she was able to better understand herself and her relationship with God.

The Encounter

For both parties, the climax of their pilgrimage came in the form of reaching the shrine at St. James. Based on both accounts that were given, their arrival at the shrine was a combination of relief, elation, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes after having completed an arduous yet rewarding task.

The Completion and Return

In the case of Ms. Eakin, the one thing she began to realize was that God and prayer should be the guiding principles behind her life. All too often, she realized, she lost herself in preparing for her future, growing increasingly apprehensive at all the factors that went into. However, by the end of her pilgrimage, she realized that she was stressing herself over nothing since God and her own peace of mind should be at the forefront of who she should be as a person.

Upon her return, Ms. Ferrell developed the notion that God will act as a guide but it is up to her to put in the necessary plans in action in order for her to accomplish her goals in life.

What do pilgrimages teach us about religious tradition?

Based on everything that has been shown so far, it can be stated that pilgrimages help us to better understand the basis behind our faith. Whether it comes in the form of visiting specific religious sites or going on a solo trip to a far off location in order to “find one’s self”, the purpose of a pilgrimage is to enable a person to come to a conclusion regarding their faith and develop a form of affirmation through personal introspection regarding what factors contribute towards their continued connection to their respective religions. In other words, pilgrimages help a person learn more about their religious identity.

This enduring method of “religious identification” is for me not necessarily a result of religious culture but rather a manifestation of the sense of community that is inherent in us all. Various studies have shown that man (i.e. humanity) is a social creature and actually craves societal contact and desires to be identified with a particular type of group. Through pilgrimages, we begin to understand that not only is our faith connected to our internal spiritual selves, it is also connected to the religious community that we are a part of. Pilgrimages, in essence, enables people to understand the personal, social, and cultural aspects that are a part of our faith and how these connect to the concept of religious traditions. Through pilgrimages, people begin to understand how traditions are one of the bedrocks behind the culture and society of our faith and how these aspects are connected to the formation of our own personal faith.

The connection between a spiritual journey to a holy site and an inner spiritual journey

In a way, a spiritual journey to a holy site can be considered as a combination of tradition and culture since it acts as a means of affirming one’s faith by viewing its origins, taking in the traditions that are a part of it, and developing a better understanding of how one’s faith came to be. It is a journey that focuses more on enabling a person to come to terms with their ideas about their religion and instills in them a greater level of awareness not only of their religion but themselves as well. A spiritual journey can be thus be considered as a means of speaking to one’s soul from which a person attempts to better understand the spiritual aspects of their faith and how it connects to them as a person. Such a process creates happiness and regret, sorrow and delight, and the feeling that despite all that has happened within life, things will get better in the future.

On the other end of the spectrum, an internal spiritual journey is not limited to flights of fancy nor is it limited to describing the brighter side of life and emotion; rather, it can convey the darkest of thoughts, the most troubling of ideas, and the most horrifying thoughts that a person can conjure up. An internal spiritual journey is an expression of life and thus reflects happiness and despair, joy, and suffering, as well as success and failure. Such an experience is based on the notion that since it is not a public but instead a personal experience, this would enable a person to understand how their thoughts and character impact their faith and their life. This process relies on an individual’s life experiences and, as such, draws from both the good and the bad.

The connection between the two lies in how a spiritual journey to a holy site helps a person to come to terms with the various issues brought about through their own inner spiritual journey. Instances of doubt, dismay, depression, and other such factors related to examining one’s life and faith are often eased when undergoing an external spiritual journey. By connection with religious locations or even calm and peaceful locations, a person is able to utilize such experiences to center themselves and thus enable them to develop some measure of peaceful affirmation and resolution to the issues that have been plaguing them.

Where I would go to take a pilgrimage?

After going through a slight bit of self-introspection, I have decided that going to a religious site would not be as agreeable to me as others. Personally, a remote area where I can look at the sights, contemplate on nature, and relax would be far more preferable and it is due to this that I have decided that if I were to take a spiritual pilgrimage, it would be to Tamborine Mountain which is located in Australia. Tamborine Mountain is considered to be one of the highlights of the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, considered by many as a get away from the hustle and bustle of city living. Tamborine Mountain hosts a small community of villages famous for its arts, crafts, antiques, fresh food, and wineries. It is actually due to the climate of the mountain itself that provides such a lush environment for the local wine industry while at the same time making it an ideal location for tourists and locals alike to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of mountain trails and unspoiled wilderness. This would make it an ideal location for me to get more in touch with my spiritual side and help me to come to terms with who I am in connection to the type of faith that I espouse.

Getting there

The Tamborine Mountain area is accessible from the Pacific Highway located at Beenleigh, Nerang, and Oxenford through hinterland routes at Canungra and Beaudesert with 5 asphalt roads leading up to the numerous communities in the area. The area itself is rather rural with agriculture being one of the primary industries in the area along with the tourist trade which has resulted in the creation of numerous accommodation houses, small hotels, cafes, restaurants as well as an assortment of attractions besides those the local scenery.

What do I hope to feel or experience?

What I hope to feel or experience is to rest, relax, and get in touch with who I am as a person through the tour that is given to visitors of the mountain. The itinerary for the trip would involve visiting the glow worm cave, tea at a coffee plantation, a relaxing afternoon strolling through the local market, lunch at the scenic Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard and Restaurant with a final stopover at the Cedar Creek falls constitute an appropriate amount of activities that would be both enjoyable and would not overly tire me. I want to be able to feel a sense of wonder, of calm acceptance of nature, and to better connect with myself by visiting places where the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life would constantly interrupt me.

I want to experience peace through this pilgrimage which I doubt I would find in crowded religious sites. Aside from this, I want some time for quiet introspection while I attempt to sort out aspects related to the ethos of my religion and how it is connected to my personal way of thinking. What must be understood is that Ethos refers to the way in which a person portrays themselves in an argument, in the sense that it is a method in which persuaders present an “image” to people that they are attempting to persuade. For example, a person may argue for the righteousness of a cause on the basis of their knowledge of the event yet this attempt at persuasion may in itself be self-serving for the person that is attempting to persuade other individuals. Through this pilgrimage, I want to be able to determine whether my thoughts or actions when it comes to the application of my religion and how I think about it are either self-serving or altruistic. I have my moments of doubts sometimes and I would like to be able to take a look at the way I have lived my life and where it is going.

In the case of ethos, what you have to understand is that it is an artificial construct created for the express purpose of promoting a particular concept or idea. All people, from various religions and cultural origins, have some form of ethos that has been fostered upon them and, as such, this has influenced the way in which they think or act. Thus, ethos can be considered a type of surface image which may in fact have an entirely fictitious relationship to what is actually true. This is a great concern for me since I want to be sure that my relationship with my religion is not something that has its basis on a fictitious relationship. I want to be sure that there is no disparity between what I say about my spirituality and who I am as a person.

For example, a teacher could show up in class one day wearing cowboy boots, a ten-gallon hat and long-sleeved t-shirt with a large image of a cactus on the front, the next day he can wear an average suit and tie while the day after that he could wear a Scottish kilt, bagpipes and one of those patterned hats. The reason I mention this is due to the fact that despite the different outfits he wears the person and the ideas that are being presented have not changed at all; however, what is changed is the perception of the audience regarding the idea being presented. The same can be said for ethos wherein the method in which the idea is “packaged” drastically changes the perception of the audience towards accepting the idea itself or the validity of its statements. As such, I sometimes wonder whether I have been emulating the teacher in the example and have been showing nothing more than a façade. I need some time for quiet introspection and contemplation without the hustle or bustle of crowds and cramped city streets. It is based on this that I would look forward to having a spiritual journey to Tambourine mountain where I can have some time to truly find myself.

Travel Itinerary

The first activity consists of a tour of the Glow-worm Caves, where travelers normally remain for at least half an hour after which they will be treated to morning tea at the scenic Coffee Plantation Gallery Café. After tea customers are normally transported to the local produce market (Green Shed) from which they can shop at the local stores and buy homegrown fruits, vegetables, or local delicacies made by the locals. After this activity, the customers will move to (Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard Restaurant/Café) in order for them to take a lunch break from the activities they had. The last activity consists of taking the tour group to Cedar Creek Falls where they can enjoy the natural wonders of the area. After this point in the tour, the travelers will be taken back to Gold Coast where they will be dropped off at the starting point.

Group Travel and Cost

I will not travel alone; instead I will travel with a group and pay along with them for the package deal for the local tour. My chosen tour experience will be the Tamborine Mountain Day Tour that offers a tour of the Tamborine Mountain area along with going around numerous communities and unique businesses in the area. The pricing per person would vary but the overall price would be AUD 750 per person in a bus that would contain at least 25 – 30 people. The reason for such a number of customers per bus is due to the focus of the business on company outings wherein large groups from different departments would all be in the same bus. I would most likely invite other people to come with me so that I can at least save a bit of money during my pilgrimage.

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