Pilgrimage to sacred spaces is a part of the human tradition.  In the Jewish tradition, Mary and Joseph traveled with Jesus to present him at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Each year "according to custom" their family traveled at Passover to Jerusalem.  On one of these pilgrimages, Jesus remained behind when Mary and Joseph began their return journey to Nazareth.  They returned to Jerusalem where they found Jesus discussing scripture with the elders of the Temple.

In the early days of Christianity, pilgrims traveled to pray at sites connected with the birth, life, crucificion and resurrection of Jesus.  Saint Origen, in the mid-third century, sought traces of Jesus in the places where he lived.  Saint Jeromem traveled to the Holy Land where he translated the Gospels (384 AD) and the Epistles of Saint Paul (385 AD) from Hebrew into Latin.  Saint Helen (250-330 AD), the mother of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine, traveled to the Holy Land where she built churches at the sites where Jesus lived, died and was resurrected. 

After the Muslims conquered the Holy Land in the seventh centory, pilgrims began to travel to Rome where Saints Peter and Paul were martyred and to other sites associated with hte martyrdom of the Apostles  and Saints.  The Way of St. James ends at Santiago di Compostela in Spain, the shrine dedicated to the Apostle James.  Chauncer's Canterbury Tales  recounts the travel of English Christian pilgrims on their way to Canterbury Cathedral and the shrine of Thomas Becket.  Until its destruction in 1538, pilgrims from England and all over Europe traveled to the Holy House at Walsingham, including countless royal and noble men and women, as well as ordinary pilgrims, all of whom prayed for a cure or an intercession to Our Lady of Walsingham.  She promised, "Whoever seeks my help at Walsingham will not go away empty handed."
Pilgrimage is a journey in relationship to God.  Prayer is part of that journey which brings us into the mystery of an awareness of God.  This journey opens our hearts and leads us to seek God in those around us - our families, our neighbors, our community, and indeed the whole human race.  The journey to God takes us into loving service of others. 

Mary waited for the Lord; she opened herself and gave herself to him.  Then, one day, God came to her.  Mary's encounter with God invites each of us to prayer and preparation for our encounter with him, so that when he appears, at a moment we least expect, we will share in the joy and peace which Mary knew when she said "Yes" to God.

We invite you to make prayer and pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham a part of your spiritual journey to God.