Pilgrims travel to Evesham, as it is the belief that The Virgin Mary appeared to a swineherd called Eoves. Eoves went to Worcester where he told Bishop Egwin about the vision. Egwin returned with Eoves where he too also saw a vision of The Virgin Mary. She was holding a book and a cross. She spoke to him saying, ‘Ecce locus quem elegi’ which means, ‘Behold the place which I have chosen.’ At the site on which the visions occurred, a Benedictine Abbey was built.
Every year pilgrims visit the site of the old abbey here mass is celebrated. Pilgrims start at the Parish Church of St Mary’s and St Egwin’s R.C. Church and then make their way through the town towards the Abbey Park, where the abbey is situated.
Normally, the pilgrimage coincides with the local parish children being confirmed. So the children normally go along with the procession dressed in their confirmation clothes and celebrate mass with the local pilgrims.
During and after a pilgrimage many pilgrims find they have gained many spiritual benefits from their journey.
Whilst on a pilgrimage many pilgrims find themselves taking time to satisfy their spiritual hunger by reading spiritual texts from the Scriptures and through prayer. A pilgrimages gives time for pilgrims to reflect upon their lives and the direction it is going, also many pilgrims spend time thinking about what they want to do and how they will get achieve it. Their priorities are re-praised.
A pilgrimage is the best time for the pilgrims to learn all about themselves, to find or learn about their personal spiritual strengths and weaknesses.
However, the greatest benefit of them all is their renewed and strengthened relationship with God. Many pilgrims become closer to God whilst on a pilgrimage.
When back home and away from the Sacred Shrines or places, the benefits are still apparent within the pilgrim. Many pilgrims come back feeling less angry and agitated and not so selfish and frustrated if they don’t get what they want from life through receiving so many gifts from God including gentleness, peace, kindness, patience and love.
Many also come back wanting to spread the word of God. They do this through talking openly about their faith to others and by helping others in real ways.
It’s not just only the pilgrimage itself which has a great effect on a pilgrim but also the Masses, processions etc which they attend while at the sacred shrine. While on a pilgrimage, the pilgrims may find themselves feeling God’s presence even more strongly and feeling closer to God. They may listen to the Mass and Liturgies in a different way, listening more closely, understanding them better and might be able to relate the readings to themselves more. Afterwards, they want to Spread the Word of God or even have their faith strengthened, as they might of felt God’s presence more strongly during Mass and taken reassurance from that, that God’s listening to their prayers and they are not alone.
Not all pilgrims who go on a Christian pilgrimage to be healed of affliction are Christians but may come back converted to Christianity. Some pilgrims, who visit pilgrimage shrines known for their healing miracles, return regular after their first visit because they enjoyed the experience and feelings of healing and also if they have had a long-term illness, are helped to come to terms with it.
Not only do pilgrims come back healed of physical afflictions but also can be cured of mental illnesses, like depression. Many see the joy and faith, which other pilgrims have in God and want to experience this themselves.
Pilgrims, who return from Medugorje, come back feeling more peaceful and at ease with themselves and feel as if they can deal with whatever obstacles fall to their lives.
However, pilgrims who have been on a local pilgrimage through Evesham feel closer to the Virgin Mary.
However, whichever pilgrimage shrine pilgrims visit, they all come back with their lives changed, whether it be a dramatic change or small less noticeable change. God features more highly in the pilgrims lives from then on.
“Places of pilgrimage tend to be very commercialised these days. This is bound to reduce the value of the pilgrimage for a Christian.” Many Christians would agree with this statement and there are many reasons why they would.
The main reason is that material gain goes against Biblical Scripture. The first commandment reiterates this, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol.” All the shops, bars, and restaurants are the modern idols. Many of these outlets can take away the real purpose of the pilgrimage and are therefore in danger of being put before the real focus and before God.
In the Gospel Jesus said, “ This temple will be a house of prayer. But you have made it into a hideout for robbers.” Many Christians would say this applies to the commercialisation of all pilgrimages. That all the shops have turned the Shrine of a pilgrimage into a tourist venue.
All the shop owners to make themselves money are using pilgrims. It is the people’s faith that brings them on pilgrimages, and it is the people’s faith, which is being, used and exploited in the shops.
A pilgrimage is meant for the pilgrim to leave behind their normal everyday lives for a few days and fully concentrate on their faith and on God. However with all the shops surrounding the Shrine, pilgrims may find themselves more absorbed in the shops themselves and what they have to offer, than by God.
This is just one view, there are however many people who do not agree with this statement. Many people would say that the commercialisation only enhances the pilgrimage experiences.
The shops offer the pilgrim the chance to take the pilgrimage home with them. By buying souvenirs from the shop, whether it be a crucifix, statue, Rosary beads whatever, it reminds the pilgrim of their time spent on pilgrimage and also shows their faith and can be used to develop their devotion.
All the shops, restaurants and accommodation, make going on a pilgrimage easier as these cater for the pilgrim’s physical needs. It gives the pilgrim a place to stay and gives them the simple basic right of food and drink.
The commercialisation also creates many jobs. People who may not otherwise be able to get jobs may be able to do so at the shops around the pilgrimage Shrines.
I think that the commercialisation of pilgrimages helps and does not reduce the value of the pilgrimage providing it remains proportionate and away from the actual sacred shrine itself. There are too many shops then it does risk reducing the value of the pilgrimage experience. There has to be a balance achieved in order to keep the spiritual value and focus of a pilgrimage whilst catering for the needs of the modern pilgrim.
Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Evesham - Golden Jubilee 1952-2002 Fact Sheet.