What is a pilgrim?

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 May 2011

As I was telling you since the eve of our departure Sunday… this is my third pilgrimage to the Holy Land, my first as a chaplain guiding 23 other pilgrims.

The word pilgrim entered the English language during the Holy Wars of 1100’s courtesy of the French Crusaders. But its root can be traced to the Latin noun “peregrinus”, the combination of the words “per” or through and “ager” for land. Literally speaking, a peregrinus or pilgrim is one who walks through the land. A pilgrim is a wayfarer as the Hebrews would claim that we have “no lasting city” on earth. We are merely passing through this earth on the way back home to God who is also our origin.

So, what is a pilgrim?

A pilgrim is a follower or a seeker of God. In our age when traveling is a way of life not only in one’s own country but to various parts of the world, a pilgrimage to a holy site is different from a tour primarily because of God himself.

In a pilgrimage, it is God who calls us to follow him or seek him in the Holy Land and other holy sites. It is God who gives us the strength – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – to follow or seek him in a holy site. It is God himself who plans our itinerary for any pilgrimage we undertake! Believe me, every sacred site has a calling and no matter how much you have heard about it that you want to visit but God has others plans for you, you’ll never make it.

It is not superstition. Just today we were prevented from going to Mt. Tabor which we failed to visit in 2017; first time I went there was in 2005. I just don’t know why Jesus is keeping me away from his mount of transfiguration. I just feel deep inside it is not meant for me again. In 2017 I came to visit anew the tomb of King David but it was only then I realized that above it is the Upper Room of Christ’s Last Supper.

Every pilgrimage is an invitation from God. Does he play favorite why not everyone is invited especially in this age of frequent traveling?

God is not playing favorite among us when it comes with pilgrimages. It is more about the question of who is truly serious in following or seeking him for a more intimate relationship through a Holy Land or holy site pilgrimage. And this is because a pilgrim goes through the land to meet himself first. Unless we have come to terms with our very selves, we shall never come to terms with life. Or death. And ultimately with God.

A pilgrim is a serious follower or seeker of God.

A pilgrim walks through the land in order to meet himself or herself. The time and distance or destination do not really matter that much. The goal of any pilgrim is to experience and find God by discovering himself or herself. From being a journey, life then becomes a pilgrimage because a pilgrim is someone who keeps on going through the land, going through all the pains and sufferings to find himself or herself more in order to be with God always.

Ultimately, a pilgrim is someone who willingly enters into a relationship with God to follow Him and be with Him in any direction to reach His home, our final destination which is heaven.

Listen. The Lord must be calling you too to be a pilgrim. Follow Him.

All photos by the author. From the top: Mt. Nebo monastery where God gave Moses the chance to see the Promised Land; statue of Jesus sleeping on a bench in Capernaum; travelling through the desert highway in Jordan; and, morning boat ride at the Lake of Galilee.

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