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Center for Action and Contemplation

Spiritual Disciplines of Pilgrimage

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Father Richard shares some “disciplines” or practices that he believes are essential for making a pilgrimage a Spirit-filled journey instead of merely a trip:    

Today, what I’d like to speak about are disciplines or what we call spiritual practices. If we want to prepare and open our spirits to receive everything we can and to perceive the fullness of the moment, I would like to at least suggest a few interior disciplines. 

Primarily, a pilgrimage is an individual matter between the person and God. It’s not horizontal as much as vertical. The primary concern is that we make an interior journey and hopefully find a bigger God. Therefore, I want to encourage each of us to take time alone each day.  

First of all, let us practice the discipline of silence. Secondly, let us take some solitude. Thirdly, we practice the discipline of speech. Our patterns of many years are that whenever there is a moment of silence, we fill it up by talking. Let’s see if God can teach us a way to say only what’s necessary and what’s important.  

We live in front of the TV, or whatever it might be. Now on pilgrimage, we’re away from that. [DM Team: Today, our smart phones make this discipline more difficult and even more essential!] We don’t need to just fill the silence up with more sounds. There are things that don’t need to be talked about, things that are just time fillers. They’re just there to fill up our nervousness. How can we deepen the quality of our communication while we’re on this retreat and this pilgrimage? 

If you keep a journal on pilgrimage, I encourage you to take some silent time and write about your experience. Don’t just journal about where we went and what we visited. Write about what’s happening inside of you. As regrets and mistakes come forward in our consciousness—and they’re inside all of us—just keep handing them over to God: “God, I’m being judgmental again. I’m being angry again. I’m being impatient again.” Then when you go to your journal, try as best you can to write down your interior experiences: “How am I feeling? What’s God saying to me in prayer? What am I hearing?” These are all disciplines to deepen the quality of our listening. 

Finally, I ask all of us to pray for the freedom to be released from cynicism and judgment. We’re going to encounter people who do and say things differently. If we move into “sophistication,” we will lose the childlike spirit that Jesus talks about. A pilgrim must be like a child who can approach everything with an attitude of wonder and awe and faith. Let’s pray for wonder. Let’s pray for awe. Let’s pray for desire, or better “the desire to desire,” and ask God to take away our cynicism. 


Adapted from Richard Rohr, On Pilgrimage: Lourdes, Holy Land, Assisi, Rome (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media: 2014), CD. No longer available for purchase. 

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:

I have been volunteering in prison for many years. I first heard of Richard Rohr and contemplative prayer from my prison book club participants. Since then, I have been blessed again and again by Fr. Rohr’s words and the Daily Meditations. I often think what a gift it was that a resource that has impacted my spiritual life in such a dramatic way was offered to me by one of society’s most marginalized people. For me, it is yet another blessing from God. I am so thankful for everyone at CAC and the amazing work you do. —Libby F. 

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