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b) Explain why some Christians go on pilgrimage and the effect which this might have on them.

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Introduction

b) Explain why some Christians go on pilgrimage and the effect which this might have on them. To answer this question, before identifying the reasons why some Christians go on pilgrimage and the effects, the word pilgrimage and the factors of what makes a site a place of pilgrimage, needs to be defined. When one says the word pilgrimage, they should mean a journey that one endures to/around a place. A pilgrimage is a symbol in action in the sense that it is a representation of the journey of a Christian life from earth to heaven, which is why 'a pilgrim people' is the term occasionally used as a description of the Church. Pilgrimage can refer to a Christian's journey through his or her life, from when they are born, to when they die. Furthermore, it can be a journey whereby as one grows spiritually, one understands more and more about themselves. Pilgrimage can be described as a journey to a sacred place or shrine, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance. It is a spiritual tradition found in the history of nearly every major religion. A good example of a Christian pilgrimage is that made by the Magi, the Three Wise Men, as it contains some of the elements of pilgrimage. They made a, most likely, arduous journey by donkey, attempting to experience a source of sacred awe. These two parts of any pilgrimage are essential, the journey and the intent of experiencing a source of awe. However, not every site is a place of pilgrimage. Many places described in the Bible, especially those visited by Jesus, are believed by Christians to be sacred. Therefore, a place of pilgrimage could simply be a place thought to be sacred and holy or mystical. An example of this is Lourdes, a very popular place of pilgrimage in France, which is thought to be a very holy place as is has a reputation of being able to heal the sick with no scientific explanation, hence the mysticism. ...read more.

Middle

In Walsingham, there is a similar hardship endured by the pilgrims. The Holy Mile is also walked barefoot by some, again for the same reason that it shows the pilgrims are suffering like Jesus did and is a way of atoning for their sins. In this sense, there wouldn't be any place of pilgrimage without some form of hardship or arduous journey, as that is what pilgrimage is, a physical journey similar to that made by Jesus, his whole life. Many pilgrims visit Walsingham and Lourdes as they are inspired by acts, events or other people. Lourdes attracts many people as it a place of healing the sick and this alone is enough to inspire someone to go on the pilgrimage. Friends or family can return from going on pilgrimage to Lourdes telling you how the experience was an amazing one and how the feeling that people cared about each other was so much greater than ever imagined and greater than ever experienced before, as many do feel that way. The overwhelming feeling of goodness and kindness that builds up inside you after pushing a wheelchair, helping a lame person get up or simply assisting a sick person. These feelings and emotions are all inspiring to many, which is what attracts them to going. Everyone leaving Lourdes values life to its greatest as people find out that there are actually more sick people than themselves, and if not, they simply cherish the atmosphere of love and care presented in Lourdes, restoring or maintaining faith and belief in God and fellow human beings. This is how the emotions are stirred, when one realises this. For Walsingham, inspiration comes from somewhere completely different. Walsingham, being a small town, has a lovely tight nit community and the events that took place, making it the place of pilgrimage it is now, stretch much further back than that in Lourdes. ...read more.

Conclusion

A third approach could be taken, accommodating the arguments for and against the above statement. One could agree with the statement, that there are more important things to do than go on pilgrimage, whilst at the same time believe that pilgrimage is essential in enhancing the act or belief of the 'more important' thing i.e. giving charity. Having undertaken the leap of faith journeying to a place of religious pilgrimage myself, I can fully appreciate the impact of such an experience on my local community as well as on myself. Events that Christians may have been brought up to recall are actually realised when visiting many religious places of pilgrimage. Strength in one's religious belief, which is maintained through pilgrimage, is vital in carrying out religious practices. Overall I believe there is no need to prioritise the worthiness of going on a pilgrimage, since for the religious believer a pilgrimage is of equal importance to numerous other acts or good deeds. The fundamental argument that many make is that pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, which complements all other good deeds. If one were in an improved state of mind any act carried out would be to the best of one's ability. This journey undertaken by many enhances not only spiritual but physical well being. For example, a well visited place of pilgrimage, Lourdes in the South of France, has been said to provide healing powers to the physically disabled. Many cases have been documented that imply Lourdes is a place of miraculous occurrences since patients have returned to a healthy physical state with no scientific explanation. Studies further suggest that any form of self- relaxation or meditation improves physical and mental well being. If this is the case all acts of kindness can be performed with willingness and enthusiasm, furthermore I feel one may be more inclined to give money to charity and help their local community. I therefore believe that these good deeds can only be fulfilled to their maximum if the doer has undertaken a pilgrimage. ...read more.

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