Religious Pilgrimage


VIRGINIA RAGUIN (Professor of Art, College of the Holy Cross): Pilgrimages are undertaken because people want to move beyond their normal, mundane life. They can be a one-day pilgrimage, from one town to another town, on a particular feast day. They can be a weekend. They can be actually years.

In the past, pilgrimage really was vital in Christian religion, certainly in Muslim and in Buddhist. Only Islam requires the pilgrimage — the Hajj — so that it is one of the five pillars of Islam. However, that is nuanced: only if you are financially and physically able.

On pilgrimage, people experience the same activities; therefore, it produces a sense of camaraderie, a sense of sharing.

post01-pilgrimageConstantly we see that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. So that all three religions use handy objects to help focus people’s thoughts; and prayer beads are some of the most ubiquitous. Prayer rugs that were brought by people, especially on the Hajj, where they could kneel down and then pray during the days of their journey. Qur’ans, small ones, were often carried with people.

One of the most common kinds of souvenirs is absolutely the simplest: stones. Stones or dirt from the ground. People who have been on the Hajj and who have engaged in one of the rituals, which is the “stoning of Satan,” invariably they bring some of those stones home with them. You also have Muslims with clay from Karbala, or other holy places, pressed together, that they then use in prayer.

Although the doctrinal core of these religions differ, the practices that they use to help focus believers onto what is important, they are the same.

Often in these three religions, you have an experience of circumambulation, walking around a site. The Ka’ba is circumambulated during the performance of the Hajj; people walk seven times around this small building. Circumambulation, either of mountain or of a stupa or another holy site in the Buddhist religion is one of the most common ways of making a pilgrimage. And, for Christians, certainly they’ll circulate around the icons sometimes, or the statue, that they are venerating. People look for this physical activity that helps them find an interior focus. Physical hardship can be transformative. One of the things the Christians, the Buddhists, and the Muslims constantly come back to is humility. They make the effort, but God grants the grace.

  • Sofia

    RE: This segment about pilgrimages across cultures/religions– particularly The statement made by the host of Religion and Ethics mis-stated a basic fact about the Hajj–Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
    His statement was: (a) About the Hajj, and (b) stated that Muslims “ALSO” celebrated the willingness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son in the Feast of Eid-ul-Addah.
    This seems to suggest that the two are separate entities when in fact they are one.
    The statement made by the host of Religion and Ethics blurs on more than one point/issue the fundamental beliefs of Muslims as stated in the Revealed Scripture — the Holy Qur’an.
    The Qur’an states that Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham was a Muslim, that is, a believer in the Oneness of God Almighty. To label him as a Jew would be a distortion of historical fact since the Torah had not been revealed during the lifetime of Prophet Ibrahim. (A similar argument is made about labeling Jesus as a Christian. He too was a Muslim.
    The historical continuity of the Prophethood of Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus and Prophet Mohammed (and many other Prophets chosen by God Almighty before Prophet Ibrahim) is clearly stated in the Qur’an.
    The word “Judeo-Christian” is also absurd since Jews do not believe in Jesus as a Prophet. How can the two groups be identified as similar?
    Again, to summarize my protest, in my opinion, the statement made on the November 5, 2011 is a distortion of the Hajj–the Islamic pilgrimage. Please stop distorting Islamic beliefs and practices.

  • Humanist

    It will be very nice if muslims stop slaughtering millions of innocent and helpless camels and sheep at the end of Hajj. Enough of this mindless, backward,barbaric, and bloody practice. Instead of kiiling animals for any god, you can save the lives of many innocent and helpless animals and people. There is nothing holy about killing innocent people and animals.

  • Al sheda

    that’s cool! I’m going on a pilgrimage soon; any suggestions of what, how, where to begin?

  • Dennis Dolan

    The Stations of the Cross (located around the inner circumference of every Catholic Church) are a mini pilgrimage/meditative journey to Jerusalem. The purpose of which is to walk the via dolorosa that Jesus walked. The Stations were developed because of the popularity of pilgrimage in the middle ages for the many people who could not go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

    How does a Professor at Holy Cross fail to reference the most obvious and ubiquitous instance of pilgrimage spirituality in the West?

  • john v

    The early Christians used to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem. You really should have covered that aspect. Its in the history books if you would do your homework. Many Catholics have continued that 2000 year old tradition. To other places too like Medjugorje, Lourdes, Fatima, the Vatican, and religious shrines the world over. Many report healings at these places. Yes.

  • Humanist

    Going on pilgrimages is good, as long as you do not hurt people and animals.

  • Channah

    Abraham/Ibrahim was neither Jew or Muslim. Neither the Torah nor the words of Mohammed had been given during his time.

    Jesus was not trying to start a new religion. He was teaching Judaism to the people–wanting them to live it as it was to be lived.

    If you’d prefer, I have no trouble with ”Jude-Christian-Islam”. Christianity and Islam came from Judaism.

    As a Jew, to me, Judaism and Islam are much more the truth. We both say that there is no G-d but G-d. It was at the Council of Nicene that they decided Jesus was part of a trinity and therefore part of G-d and therefore holy. This ws over 300 years after his death.

    Mary, mother of Jesus was of no importance till the church of Ephesus wanted to convert the Greeks and Romans. They worshiped Diana and Artemis, and like their goddesses. So, the church made Mary important and gave her a goddess like vinue. It worked-they moved from their old goddesses to the new.

    To those who commented on the slaughtering animals at the Hajj———it takes many animals to feed such a crowd. They are not left to die and rot as you seem to think they are.