What is a Pilgrimage?
Of the many pious practices found in Catholic tradition, pilgrimage holds a special place; it goes back to the roots of our faith, for it is connected with the very nature of our life on earth. “Pilgrimages symbolize the experience of the homo viator who sets out, as soon as he leaves the maternal womb, on his journey through the time and space of his existence.” If there are sacred journeys, there must be sacred places toward which one can travel; hence, with pilgrimages have come shrines.
In the 2,000 years of Christianity, many kinds of shrines have developed, drawing pilgrims according to their own needs or devotions. Especially prominent and beloved among these are shrines to Our Lady: “Marian shrines in particular provide an authentic school of faith based on Mary’s example and motherly intercession.”
Taking up this tradition, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse was founded especially to rekindle faith by helping pilgrims experience Mary’s presence, bringing always the Presence of Jesus. In this heavenly encounter, the pilgrimage both represents and supports our lifelong journey toward our true home, and refreshes our awareness of life as a great quest for God’s Kingdom.
Pilgrimage of Sacred Objects
The Shrine’s many activities all arise from this single mission. For instance, the visit this past August of the International Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady of Fatima, in connection with which many graces and miracles have been reported, offered a particularly vivid sign of our Mother’s closeness and constant intercession. Another sacred object, the forearm of St. Jude, recently came to the Shrine, a dramatic reminder that the saints truly lived on earth and remain united with us.
Furthermore, if a pilgrimage represents life, in that encounter with God we not only receive His Presence but bring to Him all of who we are, our history, background, and inner world. One of the Shrine’s annual events, the Hispanic Day of Pilgrimage, held every September, demonstrates that the Queen of Heaven is also Queen and Mother of individual places and peoples. With good reason the people of Mexico cherish Our Lady of Guadalupe as their special mother, and make great efforts to visit her in her home.
“Find here peace and joy”
Ultimately, whatever the occasion, the reasons for a pilgrimage to the Shrine converge in the same great purpose: to lift heart and mind to God, to be renewed in our life of faith and love. In the words of Cardinal Burke, founder of the Shrine, “Each time I visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and frequently in letters from pilgrims and conversations with them, I hear accounts of how souls suffering from the doubts, fears and errors which our culture propagates … find here joy and peace, even in the midst of great suffering. They find Our Lord Who alone is our salvation.”
For those interested in coming to the Shrine or learning more, information and assistance is available at guadalupeshrine.org/pilgrimage.
As the new year approaches, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe warmly invites one and all to look over the calendar and prayerfully consider planning a pilgrimage.
Time and again, those who make that effort are rewarded by finding, as Cardinal Burke says, “Our Lady of Guadalupe has brought us to this sacred place to meet her Divine Son.”
 “The Pilgrimage in the Great Jubilee,” Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, §43. “The Shrine: Memory, Presence, and Prophecy of the Living God,” Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, §1.