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Center for Action and Contemplation

A Journey of the Heart

Thursday, March 9, 2023

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew 6:21 

Author Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook connects pilgrimage to the universal longings of our hearts: 

The first thing all human beings hear in the womb is their mother’s heartbeat. The metaphor of a journey to the center of the heart offers many insights into the nature of pilgrimage in general and the inward journey of the pilgrim in particular. One pilgrimage site that speaks to the journey to the center of the heart is found in the small village of Chimayó, located in the mountains of northern New Mexico. “If you are a stranger, if you are weary from the struggles of life … whether you have a broken heart, follow the long mountain road, find a home in Chimayó.” [1] …  

Many of the pilgrims who travel there are not necessarily of the same religious tradition, and they are often not totally committed to the pilgrimage tradition or necessarily believe in miraculous healing. But they go on pilgrimage because they feel a longing in their hearts, and they are searching for something—perhaps divine love or inner peace, relief from a broken heart, or a more meaningful life—and they gain solace from belonging to a group of pilgrims along the way….  

Pilgrimage, then, involves … the heart. The Talmud says, “God wants the heart.” It is the heart that holds the body together…. Augustine of Hippo [354–430] wrote that the heart is a metaphor for our deepest and truest selves, and he frequently uses the image as a way to explain his own journey to God: “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” [2]  

Kujawa-Holbrook writes of the interwoven journeys that pilgrimage takes us through:  

The sacred art of pilgrimage involves both an inward and outward journey…. The pilgrim strives to hold both the inward and outward journey together, sometimes in tension, but always focused on the search for meaning, for the Divine…. What most distinguishes the sacred art of pilgrimage from a tourist trip or hiking expedition, as beneficial as these are, is the characteristic inward journey, a turning of one’s heart to the Divine, with the expectation of transformation on every level of being along the way. Benedict of Nursia [c. 480–547], the founder of Western monasticism and author of the Benedictine Rule, used to advise his monks and nuns to “listen with the ear of their heart.” [3] In other words, the pilgrim’s first yearning is in the heart, deeply and inwardly, sometimes for years before the outward journey begins.  


[1] George Mendoza, poem written at Chimayó, 1974, in Running toward the Light: The George Mendoza Story, William J. Buchanan (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2006), 85. 

[2] Augustine, Confessions, bk. 1.1, trans. Henry Chadwick (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 3.  

[3] The Rule of Saint Benedict, prologue. 

Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, Pilgrimage—the Sacred Art: Journey to the Center of the Heart (Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths, 2013), 40–41, 42, 43, 44–45. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 2, used with permission. Les Argonauts, Camino de Santiago, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper, Winter Bird. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On pilgrimage, people are changed through the simple act of walking. 

Story from Our Community:

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