We are journeying toward God in our lives—ever forward, or higher, “Excelsior!” We are in the world but not of the world, so we are pilgrims advancing toward our eternal home. We are nurtured on our “Christ-ian” (pronounced by Ken with three syllables) journey by the sacraments. Starting with our Baptism, the sacraments strengthen us as we make spiritual progress amid inevitable slips and falls.
The Eucharist, consumed by a dying person in the Anointing of the Sick, is called “viaticum”—food for the journey to our eternal home.
Our theological understanding of the Christian’s journey through life gets walked out and lived out geographical travels, especially to pilgrimage sites. Canterbury was a pilgrimage site that contained the bones of the martyr St. Thomas Becket. The narrative frame for The Canterbury Tales tells of a journey to that shrine. Today, the act of pilgrimage travel can help a family focus on its faith journey together. Ultimately, people take the pilgrimage experience back home as an inspiration to themselves and others.
Think of journeys in the Scriptures—not technically “pilgrimages,” but still life-changing. The Road to Emmaus depicts a transformative encounter in which travelers were joined by Christ along the way. The risen Jesus broke open the Word, and they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. Paul, on his journey to Damascus, encountered the Lord in a dramatic way. After hearing the Lord’s call, he went off to a foreign land—taking time away on a kind of retreat, a time of personal change.
Retreats are another form of journey in which we embrace the incarnational nature of our faith. Your senses are heightened when you’re in a different place, living life in a different way. A retreat changes you, and you bring back to you everyday life the fruits of your contemplation. One well-known retreat site is the St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana.
The Salve Regina prayer (the Hail Holy Queen), speaks of our journey through the Vale of Tears. We pilgrims ask Mary to advocate for us as we travel as pilgrims on the earth, eager for the joys of eternal life.